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Courtesy American Structurepoint
A rendering shows how a road conversion project will change the intersection where Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue join at Superior Street and become Wells Street.

Downtown streets to transform

Fairfield, Ewing conversion just part of summer plan

– A construction project that officials say will transform the western half of downtown will soon be underway.

The Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved the Ewing-Fairfield Conversion project, which will change Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue into two-way streets and create a roundabout where they meet at Superior Street. But officials say the project will do much more than that, because it will completely transform the streets.

That also makes the project much more complicated than just painting new lines and putting new traffic signals up.

“I wish it were that simple,” city engineer Patrick Zaharako said. “The entire geometry of the roadway has to be reconfigured for everything from line-of-sight to ensuring there are proper widths.”

Currently, Ewing and Fairfield are mostly three-lane streets with sidewalks right at the curbs. When construction is complete, each will be a two-way street with one lane in each direction, plus a center left-turn lane, plus bike lanes.

In addition, sidewalks will be moved away from the street to provide green space between the sidewalk and the curb. The streets will be lined with decorative streetlights and trees.

At the north end of the project, where Ewing and Fairfield cross Superior and join to become Wells Street, a five-leg roundabout will be built to take the place of the intersection.

Zaharako said the construction of the roundabout will take place in four phases, with traffic shifting from one leg of the Ewing-Fairfield side to the other during the work.

The Wells Street Bridge will be reconfigured, too, changing from three lanes in each direction to two lanes, with a barrier-separated bike and pedestrian lane on each side.

And that’s not all: At the south end of the project, Baker Street will go from a one-way to a two-way street from Fairfield to east of Ewing, while Jefferson Boulevard will be put on a lane diet. After a major storm sewer project is complete on Jefferson, the street will be milled and resurfaced from Broadway to Calhoun, with the portion from Broadway to Ewing losing a lane to accommodate wider sidewalks to match the section from Ewing to Embassy Theatre.

Main Street will also go on a lane diet, changing from two lanes in each direction to one lane each way with a center-left turn lane from Jackson, two blocks west of Broadway, to Maiden Lane east of the Community Center. Like Jefferson, it will be milled down and resurfaced.

Zaharako said construction projects are never fun to live with, especially when they’re this large.

“But they’re better than sliced bread when they’re done,” he said.

In December 2012, the City Council approved using $3 million in Legacy Fund money toward the project, which comes from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility. Officials said money from a special taxing district in the area will also help pay for it.

The project is set to go to bid May 21, with work beginning in June.

Officials expect major construction to be complete in the first half of November.