Apr 27, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff WriterThe planned reconstruction of Riverton's bustling North Federal Boulevard was the focus of a community meeting Wednesday at Riverton City Hall.
Wyoming Department of Transportation representative Robert Scheidemantel gave a brief overview to the crowd of business owners and citizens of the detailed project to rebuild Federal Boulevard, which is slated to begin in 2014.
He said WYDOT's preliminary scope on this particular project is to reconstruct what is already there by replacing the concrete and adding a new sidewalk.
The City of Riverton told WYDOT it would like for Federal Boulevard to be enhanced in the process. Officials from WYDOT said they aren't opposed to enhancements, but they are working on a deadline and need decisions to be made in a timely manner.
"I would like to express that we only have a year and a half until this design is done and finalized, so now is the time to come together and start deciding what sort of amenities you would like to be placed along North Federal," Scheidemantel said.
Jim Gores, of James Gores and Associates, P.C., a civil engineering firm, said the North Federal Boulevard project is moving ahead. He said the community should come together and decide how everything should be rebuilt, because the area would more than likely not be reconstructed for another 50 years.
"This project will be what we as a community decide to live with for a long time, and we have the ability to influence and express our wishes to WYDOT," Gores said. "We can influence what we want to do with Federal Boulevard, which is a main thoroughfare through town."
Gores said he liked the idea of a North Federal Boulevard rebuild committee to serve as a core group of people who know exactly what is going on to act as a sounding board for all of those who may not know the facts.
"The worst thing that can happen is a rumor mill getting started," Gores said. "As we saw when Main Street was being built (in 2004), rumors get going without the facts being laid out. We must think beyond today and start thinking how this rebuild will affect the community long term."
Scheidemantel revealed some of Riverton's traffic data. The city's south urban limit is 19,000 cars per day. The Main Street junction carries 20,744 cars, Webbwood Road junction 14,500 cars, and the north corporate limit averages 10,271 cars.
"This data is based off a 365-day average, but you can tell when you hit the north corporate limits the traffic drops to about 10,000 cars per day," Scheidemantel said.
Susan Skidmore, owner of the Trailhead restaurant, asked if the reconstruction would be done in chunks.
Scheidemantel said he had learned his lesson on Main Street when the committee wanted WYDOT to tear up the blocks two at a time.
"There was a water main that nobody knew about that was a live water main that had taps going to businesses, so we had to chase that thing all the way up Main Street, which was a bear," Scheidemantel said. "With utilities coming into play, you have to dig six feet deep, and that changes the whole gamut of how the construction is done. At this point, I don't even know where the utilities are."
Skidmore said that although she was not angry with WYDOT and had gone through this before with the rebuild of Main Street, where she also has business property, the reconstruction process would cause hardships to businesses in the area.
"We don't need to kid ourselves," Skidmore said. "This is painful, and it will hurt, and we will have to do everything we can to keep our doors open, but we will experience some pain."
Marlene Brodrick asked if the South Federal Boulevard reconstruction and the North Federal Boulevard reconstruction would match.
"It seems to me that there is a conflictual decision being made," Brodrick said. "If we like something on the north side, and South Federal doesn't have it, then how are we unifying everything?"
Riverton mayor Ron Warpness said the enhancements wouldn't have to match, but it is something that would need to be decided because of the rebuild being such an important project for Riverton.
"This would be what the committee would decide, and if there is something that South Federal is doing that the North Federal side might not want, then it would be up to the committee," Warpness said.
Riverton City Councilman Richard Gard said the plan was not sinister and that everyone needed to get organized before getting mandated.
"If you don't, as a group, get organized and decide what is a good idea for Federal going north, you are going to end up with things you might not want," Gard said. "You need to get together and make sure that the majority gets what they would like."
The meeting concluded with John Gunnison being nominated as the official spokesperson for the North Federal Boulevard rebuild committee. He will be setting up a committee meeting in the near future.
Scheidemantel said he isn't concerned about what amenities are chosen, but that he is concerned with getting a new road in Riverton. He said he hopes the committee will start making progress on the plans.
"If we don't get the ball rolling, we could be driving on a gravel road in 10 years," Scheidemantel said.
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