Old Man Winter has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with as the town embarks on its next phase of downtown construction.
Monday, the day scheduled for Hanover utility crews to begin work upgrading water and sewer lines, coincided with a cold snap across the region as lows dipped into the single digits overnight. Tuesday, the high in Ashland did not peak out of the teens.
“I think the biggest challenge with phase two, unlike this past fall, is the weather – the unknown,” said Town Manager Charles Hartgrove.
Depending on the weather, the project should conclude in mid- to late spring. Work consists of upgrading stormwater drainage and installing new sidewalks and permeable pavers as well as cosmetic improvements like new streetlamps and landscaping. Hanover’s department of public utilities will be on site for several weeks before the town’s contractor, Talley & Armstrong, begins its work. The overall budget for both phases of construction is $600,000, the bulk of which comes from state funds dedicated to road upkeep.
In addition to problems outside of their control, like weather, Hartgrove said he hopes that downtown businesses will not take too much of a hit because of the construction. Leading up to the second phase of work, the town reached out to property and business owners and managers and worked to try to pinpoint the best way to ensure access to businesses during the project.
“I think everyone understands to a certain extent that there’s no good time to do this, but I think this is probably one of the better times to try to get this knocked out before nice weather and hopefully this won’t interrupt people’s sales and receipts later in the year,” Hartgrove said.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge for a lot of those businesses,” he added. “I think all of them are very concerned about how this is going to affect their regular customers and also just people driving through.”
Though it will no doubt be a hassle in the short term, Hartgrove said that improving drainage and removing safety hazards benefits everybody.
“That’s our biggest concern – having safe, walkable sidewalks and also trying to eliminate flooding whenever we can,” he said.
The project will be conducted in four different phases as a way to reduce the inconvenience to the local businesses that lack a rear entrance, according to Nora Amos, director of planning and community development. Amos said work will conclude during that two-week phase before crews move on to the next one, a different approach than the first phase where workers targeted the entire block at once.
Work will begin in the southern most area of the project in front of the professional offices at 210 Center Street and the entrance to the municipal parking lot. The second phase of work will take place in front of The Iron Horse Restaurant. Construction will then proceed down Railroad Avenue, concluding in front of The Caboose.
The project area will be closed to automobile traffic from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. while construction is going on. Hartgrove encourages citizens to access the municipal parking lot from Hanover Avenue or parking behind the Ashland library to access downtown businesses, adding that continuing to support those merchants is key during the construction process.
Hartgrove encourages citizens and visitors to be mindful when walking or driving in the area and to review the parking maps and the latest information available at the town’s website www.town.ashland.va.us. Citizens are also encouraged to sign up to receive “Notify Me” updates from the town related to the project, which can be sent via email or text message.