GREENFIELD — Construction work on Potts Ditch is ongoing as the construction crew and city officials brace for the most difficult phase of the project yet.
By Friday, officials hope to have North Street open between State and Spring streets as construction on East Street begins.
Weather permitting, on May 26, East Street will be closed between North and Grant streets. At that time, Grant Street will be open to two-way traffic, but parking on the street will not be permitted.
A new tunnel is being constructed for Potts Ditch — a waterway that runs underground when it reaches the downtown district — along Grant, East, North and Spring streets in downtown Greenfield.
The project, which is the largest the city has undertaken in recent years, has been underway since fall and is expected to curtail flooding in the downtown district, an area that’s been prone to high water for years.
Casey Lynch, project manager for engineering firm American Structurepoint, said construction on East Street — phase five of the project — will be the most difficult for folks to deal with when it starts in a couple of weeks.
Phase five has crews crossing the existing ditch for a second time. Because roads in that area are narrow, getting people living in the area to and from their homes will be difficult, Lynch said.
“That just leads to probably the largest inconvenience and the most difficult construction process,” he said.
Phase five likely will take several weeks to complete before crews move on to work on Grant Street and eventually State Street.
Initial setbacks in the project delayed its start by a few months, delaying its expected completion. Originally, officials hoped to have the major construction work complete by September but now don’t expect it to wrap up until late November or early December.
But officials say work during the winter months went better than expected and they’re eager to continue progress through the summer.
“I can’t stress how well the winter went,” Lynch said. “We had a slow start. We had a slow summer last year.”
Since the initial setbacks, progress has been steady, city engineer Karla Vincent said.
“As far as construction goes, there haven’t been too many surprises,” she said. “It’s not like we’re running into anything underground that we didn’t know was there.”
Since the project began, city officials have worked to communicate with residents and businesses owners in the area.
There’s no doubt the project is inconvenient for people working and living northeast of downtown, officials agreed.
City officials have meetings most Tuesday mornings to address questions and concerns residents might have and plan to hold a few more evening meetings for people who can’t make it to the morning sessions.
“It’s inevitable that we will inconvenience people. And we have inconvenienced people,” Casey said.
But residents generally have been understanding. Having clear communication about what’s happening and why it’s happening has been helpful, Vincent said.
Mayor Chuck Fewell said he’s happy with how the project is progressing and commended residents for putting up with the added stress of messy streets and detours.
“They have been very, very gracious with their attitudes,” he said.
A project as large as the Potts Ditch project takes many city departments, engineers, construction crews and residents working together to get through it, he said.
“You can’t have a large project … and not have a large headache,” he said. “Our goal is to not have those headaches become migraines.”
Residents with questions or concerns related to the Potts Ditch project can meet with city and project officials Tuesday mornings at Lincoln Square Pancake House, 118 W. Main St.
The meetings begin at 7:30 a.m.
In the next two weeks, the project focus will switch again, closing another section of road.
North Street from State to Spring streets is expected to open Friday.
And on May 26, officials plan to close East Street from North Street to Grant streets. At that time, Grant Street will be open for two-way traffic, but no on-street parking will be permitted.