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Support lukewarm on enhancements for North Federal rebuild
Feb 12, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
Riverton business owners and residents who attended the regular city council meeting Tuesday at city hall expressed consensus that some types of small improvements along North Federal Boulevard would be sufficient, while others felt any beautification ideas would not only affect their businesses but also the safety of drivers. Many said the idea of transforming Federal Boulevard into something like Main Street would pose a challenge mainly because it's occupied by chain stores and restaurants with large parking lots.
As the Wyoming Department of Transportation prepares to makes its utilities and pavement repairs from north of Webbwood Road to East Washington Avenue, the city asked for public input to finalize concrete plans and then pass them on to WyDOT to begin the project.
WyDOT will be using $9.1 million to rebuild and repair the pavement, basic sidewalks, curbs and gutters on the busy commercial street. For the enhancements, James Gores of James Gores and Associates, the civil engineering firm hired by the city to form improvement plans, said WyDOT and other city resources could provide some funding.
Gores said the committee deliberated over whether the look of Main Street could be carried over to Federal Boulevard. If appropriate funding can be allocated, the city plans to go forward with the recommendations of the North Federal Boulevard Planning committee and the desires of the public.
The planning committee presented a report to the council at a previous meeting, showing what the panel voted in favor of, what ideas were turned down, and why.
The option of adding color to the sidewalks was rejected by the committee after considering the city would have to pay for the dye at an estimated cost of about $48,000.
Planting trees along the boulevard would require an irrigation system and gates around them would be placed for pedestrian safety and litter control.
The committee's report stated that setting the trees 50 feet apart would require 185 trees, and the cost of installing the trees, the irrigation system and the cast-iron tree gates projected an estimated cost between $480,000 and $558,000.
Many on the committee rejected this idea, citing concerns about blocking the views of business signage and other vehicles. Also voted against was the idea of installing an irrigation system so any business owners who chose to install trees in the future could do so. The cost of that was estimated at more that $230,000.
The committee took longer to agree on which type of lighting to choose. The interim report presented to the city council read, "It was a general consensus among the committee that additional lighting should be installed along the North Federal Boulevard because presently only one side of the street is lighted."
After discussing several options, the panel recommended installing two types of light-emitting diode poles -- one type similar to that already in place on Federal Boulevard and the other similar to the decorative style poles on Main Street.
Alan Moore, president of the Riverton Economic and Community Development Association and IDEA Inc., said enhancements could help convince people to become Riverton residents.
"You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression," he said. "I am proud of the town that we have, but I think that we have the opportunity to make it just a little bit better."
Moore said that adding "a little bit of flash" wouldn't hurt the community and instead might give it a more "open" characteristic.
"We need to identify ourselves and build a brand that says that we are welcoming," Moore said.
An eight-year Riverton resident, Larry Wallace, said that when he first moved to Riverton, City Park was very appealing to him with its large trees, but he said he also noticed the lack of trees on Federal Boulevard.
"I think any attractive city throughout the country has beautiful trees along its main roadway areas, and these provide a visual feature of attraction," Wallace said.
He also suggested the street be made more "pedestrian friendly."
Others said the trees and light poles would be lost along the route as the larger signs would overlook them and that no enhancements could change the overall "industrial" look of Federal Boulevard. Local business owner Bob Lynch said decorative lighting wouldn't provide enough lighting and trees could block visibility for truck drivers.
Joe Pepper, the manager at Wind River RV Park, said he was most interested in knowing how long the construction would take because it would affect the RV park and its customers.
He said any extensive construction period would cut the number of customers at the business significantly.
Pepper said he'd like to know ahead of time about the dates for construction and completion so they can notify people who will be looking to visit the RV park.
"I cannot wait six months ahead -- I need to know a year in advance," Pepper told the council.
He suggested that in order to beautify the boulevard, the enhancements should be applied only two blocks before and after the City Park.
"The rest of it, make it functional and operate the way it should for traffic to be able to handle it, and the town will prosper," Pepper said.
Mike Bailey, a local business and property owner also agreed that he preferred that the construction not take too long. He was in favor of some trees and lights and recommended safety improvements on Federal Boulevard and Sunset Drive to benefit pedestrians.
Mayor Ron Warpness thanked all those who presented their ideas and said the city would acknowledge all the suggestions made.
"This is just an opportunity for the citizens of Riverton to give us an idea of how involved do you think the city should be," he said.