GREENFIELD — A section of Main Street will be closed for two weeks starting Monday to make way for construction of a new underground tunnel for Potts Ditch.
U.S. 40 will be closed entirely at Spring Street from Aug. 25 to Sept. 9. As downtown merchants hope the project won’t hinder business and public safety agencies plan alternate routes, city officials say this is just the first of several closures that will coincide with the year-long ditch relocation project.
Potts Ditch is a watershed that is routed through a century-old tunnel in the historic downtown district. The undersized tunnel overflows during heavy rainfall, causing occasional flooding in the area.
City officials have been talking for decades about finding a solution to the problem; the $10.8 million relocation project will build a new tunnel for the ditch along Grant, East, North and Spring streets.
While houses that the city had purchased were razed last week for the project, the closure of Main Street at Spring Street will be the first major step in the construction process, said Casey Lynch, project manager for engineering firm American Structurepoint.
“We are installing that section of the new underground ditch,” Lynch said. “We’re getting the underground ditch out into the right of way into the street.”
The official detour around the project uses Franklin, State, McKenzie and Apple streets, but Lynch said local motorists will be able to find their way around the downtown area via smaller residential streets.
Still, some business owners are bracing for the inconvenience.
Carol’s Cornerstone Café, which is at the corner of Main and Spring streets, could be affected the most. Even after the work is completed on Main, construction will continue along Spring Street.
“There is some on-street parking out here; that’s the only thing that will save me,” owner Carol Stover said.
Construction comes just when the restaurant is about to open a new service: an ice cream and soda shop at the front of the building. Stover hopes customers will remain loyal, even if they have to park a little farther away.
“We are open, and we appreciate anybody who can get in here, because it’s going to be tough for a while,” she said.
A short distance west, on the courthouse square, Paul Maslek, owner of Andree’s Florist, is just “mildly concerned” the project will slow foot traffic. Most of his business is done via the Internet and telephone orders, and Maslek said overall he will be glad when the Potts Ditch flooding woes are over.
Shelley Swift, program manager for Greenfield Main Street, said she hasn’t heard too many concerns from downtown merchants about the project.
“I would just encourage people to park where they can and still remember downtown merchants,” Swift added. “Historically, whenever you block access, it can hurt business.”
Word of the street closures has already spread to schools, the post office and public safety agencies. James Roberts, chief of the Greenfield Fire Department, said his department has been mapping alternate routes to respond to emergencies from its downtown fire station.
Emergency vehicles will use North and Pratt streets to avoid the construction project and navigate Main Street. Parking will have to be restricted on the west and south sides of the North/Pratt intersection to make sure fire trucks can make the turn to reach Main Street. Roberts said “no parking” signs will be placed in the area for the two-week closure.
“As long as we can keep that intersection where it’s easy to navigate and turn, it will be fine,” he said.
This week, construction crews have been setting up trailers as offices along Fourth Street, where several houses have been demolished for the project.
Lynch said crews are trying to work with downtown residents and business owners as much as possible. An informational meeting about the relocation project is held at 7:30 a.m. every Tuesday at Carol’s Cornerstone Café, and while Spring Street will continue to be closed following the closure at Main Street, people will still be able to get to their homes.
“For all intents and purposes for the general public, (Spring Street is) closed, but we are absolutely committed to working with the homeowners and business owners,” Lynch said.
The next major street closure will be on State Street near the post office, but that won’t happen until late in the construction project next year.
For more information on the project and updates on construction, visit www.pottsditch.com.
Regular updates on the Potts Ditch reconstruction project can be found at www.pottsditch.com. City officials also hold public informational meetings at 7:30 a.m. every Tuesday at Carol’s Cornerstone Café.