Part of First Avenue South downtown to close Monday

Three blocks of First Avenue South in downtown Fort Dodge will be closed Monday and will remain off limits to traffic for a couple of months as the creation of the crosstown connector begins.

First Avenue South between Sixth and Ninth streets will be closed until the end of October, according to city officials.

The intersections of First Avenue South and Seventh Street and First Avenue South and Eighth Street will be shut down for the duration of the construction project.

However, the intersections of First Avenue South and Sixth Street and First Avenue South and Ninth Street will remain open.

”We’re asking for the public’s patience,” Police Chief Tim Carmody said.

”People need to plan ahead and leave a few extra minutes early,” he said. ”It may take them 11 minutes instead of 10 minutes to get across town.”

The project set to start Monday will be the first major step toward completing the crosstown connector. The crosstown connector, first proposed in a 2008 downtown master plan, will convert First Avenue South into a two-way street for its entire length.

The work that will begin Monday includes replacing storm sewers, sanitary sewers and water mains plus rebuilding the street and sidewalks, according to Tony Trotter, a project engineer in the city’s Engineering, Business Affairs and Community Growth Department. He said the reconstructed street will have a 9-inch-thick concrete surface.

A new link that will join First and Second avenues south with a roundabout intersection at Sixth Street is perhaps the most high profile component of the crosstown connector project. Trotter said that will be built next year.

Wicks Construction, of Decorah, has a $3,806,344.40 contract to do the crosstown connector work on First Avenue South between Fourth and Ninth streets.

While construction is underway, Central Avenue will be the best way to reach downtown from the east, Carmody said.

Because of the intersections that will be closed, Sixth and Ninth streets will be the preferred routes to reach downtown from the north or south, he added.

To compensate for the loss of on-street parking on First Avenue South during construction, city officials made a change in a downtown parking lot. Spaces in two rows of the lot behind the Municipal Building, 819 First Ave. S., have been designated for one-hour parking.

City officials are also recommending that people coming downtown use the parking lot behind McGregor’s Furniture Co., 712 Central Ave. That lot is a half block from Central Avenue and one block from First Avenue South.

On-street parking will remain available on Seventh and Eighth streets downtown during the project.

Sidewalks on both sides of First Avenue South will initially remain open. Tall barricades will separate them from the work area.

”There will be deep holes out in the street, so this is to protect everybody,” Police Capt. Robert Thode said.

Because of the barriers, no one will be able to cross the street in the construction zone. People wanting to cross First Avenue South will have to go to its intersection with Sixth Street or Ninth Street.

During the project, the alleys around the Webster County Law Enforcement Center, 702 First Ave. S., will be closed so that an emergency generator and air handling equipment can be installed.

The drive-up teller windows at Northwest Bank, 723 First Ave. S., will remain open during the project. but customers will have to approach them from the alley on the south side of the bank building.

John Taets, the bank’s president, said two of the seven drive-up positions will be removed to create a connection from the alley. He said to reach the drive-up teller windows, vehicles will come down the alley, go up the newly created connection and make a turn into one of the remaining positions.

”We’re anticipating and looking forward to all the improvements in that area,” Taets said of the First Avenue South project.