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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Harrow Streetscape on schedule and work is moving along

by Sylene Argent

Since ground was officially broken in April to kick-off the start of the $5M Harrow Streetscape project, work has progressed and the project is on schedule to be completed sometime in November, Director of Infrastructure for the Town of Essex, Kevin Girard, said.

  The project area stretches from Queen Street, all the way across King Street, and up McAffee Street. The Streetscape will provide beautiful, new landscaping, sidewalks, and safer pedestrian crossings to help connect businesses.

  Currently, the King Street storm sewer is being laid, which is nearly complete, and paving work on Queen Street has started.

  The large work area for the project is due to the underground storm sewers and watermains that had to be completed, Girard explained. When being completed, it is tough to break project areas into smaller phases. That is why the closure took place from Victoria to Walnut, because of the large storm sewer that was going in.

  The Town couples underground work with road repairs for efficiency. Underground work tends to have a larger phase within a project, Girard explained, because of the constructability, traffic movement, and accommodating deliveries of materials and equipment.

  With the significant amount of money being invested into Harrow Centre, the Town wanted to ensure the drainage and water infrastructure was taken care of before that investment was made, Girard commented on why the underground matters were being taken care of at the same time as the aboveground improvements.

  The intention was to address potential large storm events. “We didn’t want to put $5M into Harrow Centre and ignore what was underground,” Girard said, adding the former sewer was past its useful life and needed to be replaced.

  There have been some unexpected delays with the project, specifically with the streetlight poles, Girard commented, noting this was due to the pandemic. The Town is still waiting on those to be completed.

  An unexpected change to the plan included when the Queen Street and King Street traffic signal was damaged during a severe thunderstorm in June, which caused permanent damage and failure to multiple components within the traffic signal cabinet, including the controller.

  At the July 5 Council meeting, Council approved the additional expenditure of replacing the traffic signals at the King Street and Queen Street intersection, in the amount of $170,820, as part of the Harrow Streetscape project.

   Originally included in the project was the rehabilitation of the traffic signals at King Street and Queen Street, with provisions to construct the underground infrastructure required to install new traffic signals in the future, when the traffic lights reach their useful life, which would be in seven years or less.

  In addition to new streetlights and the new traffic signal, Girard explained the streetscape will add an audible beeper for those crossing the road at the Queen Street and King Street intersection.

  “It will be a big improvement to what was already there,” he said.

  The Town made a considerable effort to review pedestrian crossings and included push-button lighted pedestrian crossings as part of the design. There will be three new pedestrian crossings, in addition to the traffic light, to cross more safely.

  Contractors, he added, are working to get things done. The project is expected to be completed some time in November.

  Girard noted that once the project has been completed, patrons will be able to park anywhere in the area and enjoy a nice walk to connect with restaurants and retail. It is hoped to have everything completed for the Christmas shopping season.

  Girard noted it was important to provide parking within the vicinity of each one of the businesses. The Town worked closely with all the businesses and met with those who had concerns to ensure they were accommodated. A Harrow Streetscape hotline was also created to help residents be heard regarding concerns with the project.

  The Town also partnered with ERCA to improve the greenway crossing at Queen Street. Girard said the partnership will create a rest area for the Greenway, which will include landscaping, benches, a bike repair station, and a pedestrian push-button crossing.

  “That will be a pretty significant undertaking, especially when the Town is such a big advocate for active transportation,” Girard said, adding it will be a nice addition to the project. It is hoped people from other communities, within the Essex Region, when they use the active transportation trail, will use the area to rest and even go into downtown Harrow to do some shopping or grab a bite to eat.

  He expects the Streetscape will have a pretty big impact on businesses in the area, and it is hoped it will draw residents from other communities to visit Harrow, using active transportation.

   The Streetscape project has been in the works for years. Stempski Kelly Associates Inc. created a plan to enhance the Harrow area in 2018. At that time, public feedback was gathered, and Council later approved the plan.

  Council voted to set funding in motion for the project in February, when J.C.S. Construction Inc. was appointed to undertake the construction.

  During the 2021 Capital Budget deliberations, Council approved funding towards the Harrow Streetscape in the amount of $5,492,018.

  Information from the Town of Essex noted the Harrow Streetscape project is also made possible with a nearly $250,000 contribution from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs’ Rural Economic Development (RED) grant program.

  The Town of Essex will also undertake the Essex Centre Streetscape in the future.

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