Dig In Midland Gives Downtown a New Look
In time for the holidays, downtown Midland sports a whole new look, with wide sidewalks, outdoor fireplaces and planters as the $9 million Dig In Midland project on Main Street wraps up construction.
"The old streetscape was getting dated and was going to need some major maintenance work," says Dennis Lauer, Project Manager for the City of Midland, which has a population of about 40,000 people. "We replaced everything from property line to property line."
The work included reconstructing sidewalks and the road and installing new sanitary laterals and storm sewers and a catch basin.
"We did not want to dig it up in a year or two to replace something that had failed," Lauer explains.
Midland's downtown last received a facelift in 1993. Many of the trees were stressed and dying and pushing up the existing sidewalk. The new streetscape encourages pedestrian activity, outdoor dining and festivals. Angle parking has been converted to parallel parking in three blocks along Main Street. Planters, chess tables and fire features are planned additions.
Fisher Contracting Co. of Midland received the contract and kicked off the job with a "Touch a Truck" event in conjunction with the groundbreaking ceremony. About 400 people attended.
"We closed down the first block and placed a semi-tractor trailer, concrete ready mix truck, roller, excavator [and] loader so the kids could sit in them and get pictures," says John Waskevich, Estimator/Project Manager with Fisher Contracting. "We hauled in 10 cubic yards of sand and hid prizes in the sand. We supplied small shovels, and the kids went crazy looking for prizes."
Construction began in June and the project was completed in November.
Midland Engine in Midland provided the equipment. Midland Engine was founded in 1984 and has been a Hyundai dealer for more than 20 years. The service-oriented company has fully equipped service trucks for onsite servicing.
A key piece of machinery used on the project was a Hyundai R235 LCR-9 Hydraulic Excavator.
"It features compact tail swing, which allows for close work amongst obstacles," said John Inman with Midland Engine. "It's a handy machine for a job like that."
Fisher also used a Hyundai HL757 Wheel Loader and a Hyundai R140 LC-9A Hydraulic Excavator, which also is good for tight spaces. Inman reports it is a quick and powerful machine, dependable and good on fuel.
"We've utilized the zero-radius machinery, and it was helpful," Waskevich says.
Coordination Limits Surprises
As is usual when completely digging up a road, crews ran into some surprises, such as an existing wooden water main and brick sewer lines, which were removed. A sinkhole, caused by a leaking catch basin led to a brick sanitary sewer, and necessitated repairing the deteriorated catch lead and the brick sewer line.
Fisher Contracting put in an aggregate base and paved the road with asphalt and the parking areas in the three-block main area with concrete.
"The decorative concrete flat work is beautiful," Waskevich reports. "There are three different kinds of exposed aggregates in different patterns. The sequencing was a challenge and required multiple pours per area."
Those three blocks have gutters and are without curbs, making it easy to get out and walk to the stores and restaurants. That also makes it easier for festivals to place tents. Fisher Contracting embedded anchors for the tents. New fixtures are high to light the road and low to illuminate the sidewalk.
"Fisher has done an excellent job of coordinating all of the subcontractors," Lauer says. "Everyone has gotten along, pitched in and did their thing."
The work included installing rain gardens, so stormwater runoff from the sidewalks drain into the planters. Below the soil, Fisher installed a layer of gravel and sand to naturally filter the ground water.
One of the more interesting aspects was the installation of Silva Soil Cells next to the tree planters to prevent sidewalk buckling as the trees grew. The soil cells have a plastic base and structural columns, where the roots can grow. The cells are loosely filled with different soil mixes for the trees.
"It allow the roots to grow freely underneath the sidewalk," Waskevich says. "There is a 3-foot to 4-foot gap under the concrete, with the noncompacted soil."
Fisher Contracting crews worked daylight to dusk six days a week during the entire project.
"The work has been challenging," Lauer says. "People are recognizing the effort going into it and are happy with the progress."
About $7 million was donated to the project by three local nonprofit organizations: $4.62 million from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, $1.75 million from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, and $630,000 from The Charles J. Strosacker Foundation. The Downtown Development Authority contributed another $500,000 to the project for design engineering and public outreach.
"We are fortunate to have the funding to do something like this," Waskevich says.
Lauer acknowledges the businesses lost some income during the construction, because people avoided the area. Most businesses had rear entrances and did not need to close. Lauer kept the business owners informed about the project and when work would affect their location. "As we completed the areas, business has come back and rebounded," Lauer says.
Once the streetscape opened, people have been walking around, enjoying the new amenities. People were sitting outside in October. The area includes charging stations for cell phones or tablets.
The cast-concrete fire features are about 3 feet high and are intended to serve as gathering spots, Lauer says. They will be fired by natural gas.
Community members would like an overlook at the eastern end of the project and are in the process of raising funds to complete that work.
"We have gotten a lot of good comments about the work," Lauer says. "Overwhelmingly positive comments from pedestrians and business people. They are happy how it is turning out."