Like a marathon runner eyeing the finish line with a couple of miles left, the completion of the bulk of construction on Lake Street is close at hand.
The city anticipates Lake Street will be open to both directions of traffic by Friday. That was supposed to be the start of James J. Hill Days until COVID-19 stopped the event in its tracks.
The construction project began March 30 - roughly 24 weeks ago.
Parts of the project got ahead of schedule early on, passing some milestones in quick fashion.
According to Stahl Construction, the 600 block of Lake Street opened to some traffic more than two weeks ahead of the original schedule.
But due to several obstacles, parts of the project fell behind pace mid-way through.
“This project has had ups and downs, as they all do, but the expanded team has evolved its strategy with the changing environment,” said Stahl Construction President Jessie Houlihan.
Stahl and the city worked with the Met Council as light pole footings were installed over a sewer main that runs along Lake Street. Getting approval pushed the work back by weeks.
Precast benches and walls also set the project back. The city’s decision on which benches and walls to use was delayed and so was the product delivery and installation.
“We are all pleased that we’ve been able to minimize the impact of the challenges we encountered and chase down opportunities for improvement while trying to keep everyone informed,” said Stahl.
The construction project was a test on residents and business owner’s patience and resilience.
“I am very relieved,” said Wayzata resident Dan Goldman. “The noise, the dust and the inability to walk along Lake Street was not fun.”
“The City Council and staff really appreciates residents, businesses, and visitors who have put up with burden of Panoway construction this past year,” said City Manager Jeff Dahl. “We have very understanding and patient community members who have been through a lot over the past several years, not to mention all of the implications that COVID has had on the community. We hope that this new amenity will be worth the hassle---downtown will be safer, more walkable, connected, greener, with more outdoor gathering space for the community. We think it will be worth the wait.”
Throughout the disruption of the construction project, Lake Street businesses hung in there.
“I am so grateful for them (businesses),” said resident Katy Miketic. “With the double-hit of construction and the pandemic, it's been a rough season for Wayzata. Thanks to them and I hope that they bounce back!”
The city made efforts to inform the community about each step of the project, but admits, communication could have been better.
“Because of the quantity of info and how quickly things were changing, signals got crossed a few times,” said Dahl. “There were some lessons learned but I think we are at a good place now. The businesses, Chamber, and the team at Stahl really helped us a lot with getting the word out.”
And the word is that Lake Street will be open for both lanes of traffic on Friday.
It has been a trying five months for residents and businesses.
Come Friday, the endurance runner will cross the finish line exhausted and relieved.