RANSON – Workers today are scheduled to start pouring concrete for new, wider sidewalks along Mildred Street, part of an extensive overhaul of parts of both Ranson and Charles Town. “It’s exciting to see the changes we’ve been talking about actually taking shape,” explained Andy Blake, Ranson’s acting city manager.
The Spirit asked him to describe the project that began Monday and share what’s ahead next for the look of the two cities.
Q. Is the work happening along Mildred part of the Ranson Renewed project we heard so much about last year?
A. This project is part of a Transportation Enhancement Grant awarded to the city of Ranson on Aug. 11, 2009, in the amount of $300,000. The project consists of replacement sidewalks, replacement curb and gutter, ADA curb cuts, pavement crosswalk striping, new street lighting and new and replacement landscaping – from Lancaster Circle towards the municipal limits with Charles Town and from Fairfax Boulevard to Preston Street.
It’s tied into Ranson Renewed in the sense that when we had consultants here, we talked about this project and after getting their feedback, we went back to our plans and made the sidewalks wider and the street a bit narrower, to encourage walking and to get drivers to slow down through those areas.
Q. Besides the sidewalks, what else is included in this project?
A. The city plans on installing LED lighting to save energy, to put in trees along the street and then eventually benches. The purpose of the project was to improve one of the commercial districts of Old Town.
Q. What’s the timeframe for the work to be done?
A. We think it will take approximately 60 days to complete the entirety of the project, so we’re looking at the end of September. We continue to thank residents and businesses for their patience. So far, we haven’t heard any negative feedback. We held workshops and posted notices on residents’ doors to try and be very up front about everything that’s going to be going on. So far, I’d say the reaction to the work has been pretty good.
Q. Is this work being done by the city?
A. To save money, city workers are doing a lot of the prep work – starting with tearing out the old sidewalks. Crews from the winning bidder on the project, Morgan-Keller [Construction, based in Frederick, Md.], will begin actually pouring concrete [today] for the new sidewalks, start laying in the curbs.
Q. The grant money won recently by Ranson Renewed will mean a lot more work like this in the months to come, correct?
A. This can be seen as sort of a pilot project for all of the rest of the work that’s in the pipeline. We have grant money coming for the second and third stage of the Safe Routes to School project, which will happen from Preston up to Seventh Avenue to [Ranson Elementary School].
And then there’s stimulus money that we’ve matched along with state and city money that will go toward improvements along Fifth Avenue, from Mildred Street all the way to (W.Va.) 9.
When it’s all done, we’ll have connectivity from these commercial areas all the way to the neighborhoods. It’s going to make the cities much more walkable. And we’ll also be able to solve a lot of storm water issues that Old Town has now. When all of this comes together, we believe it’s going to really encourage economic development.
Q. This isn’t just about Ranson. Charles Town also will benefit from the changes?
A. Ranson and Charles Town both are seeing a lot of resources coming in. We’re working together to make this happen. It was officials in Charles Town officials, for instance, who took the lead on the Evitts Run Park expansion project, which recently was awarded a grant for $100,000 from the EPA. That’s going to provide a fantastic public park for our area. It all kind of goes together in a package. All these changes aren’t going to happen overnight, but we’re started now and I’d say we’re definitely on the right path.”