Partial road closures for Smith County's downtown jail expansion will begin next week as work begins on the 16-month project.
The city will barricade the eastern half of Spring Avenue from Elm Street to Erwin Street. The open portion will remain northbound. Erwin's eastbound lane and half dozen parking spaces will be fenced off. The westbound lane will become eastbound only, as it was before the city made it two-way several months ago. Fannin Avenue's western half will be closed and its eastern lane will be southbound only.
Portable fencing will surround the site.
Dump trucks, 18-wheelers and other heavy equipment will visit and leave the site in an orchestrated schedule as the project proceeds, Harris said. Dump trucks will exit with dirt and debris starting Aug. 27, when site demolition begins, he said.
Concrete, steel, and materials needed to build the 87,299 square-foot new building and renovate portions of the existing jail will continuously trickle into the site. A tower crane will be on the site for seven months, Harris said.
Around 200 construction workers, from brick and concrete crews, welders and electricians, will be on the site during the project.
“It's very cramped for room down there,” he said. “We're going to build a six-story building and every bit of it has to be trucked in piece by piece.”
The county has set up a construction worker parking lot and site support area just north of Ferguson Street near the Courthouse Annex Building.
Peter Eng, city of Tyler traffic engineer, said the traffic plan was designed to manage construction traffic and keep it out of downtown.
“That building has to go up,” he said. “It will probably be an inconvenience for everyone but we want to be as safe and efficient as possible.”
Some business owners said downtown traffic flow and parking is already a concern and that construction could cause more problems.
Ralph Mason, store manager of Levine's, said the impact on businesses will be unknown until the project gets under way. Levine's business was “tested” while several parking spaces were fenced off for 18 months following a February 2009 fire.
“The thing I would hope to see is that it doesn't interfere with customers trying to get here,” he said.
Felicia Holloway, co-owner of The Glass Onion, a relatively new antique store on the east end of Erwin Street, is concerned the work could disrupt downtown revitalization momentum. For the past few years, investors, businesses, the city and county have put effort and money into making downtown Tyler a burgeoning place to visit, she said.
Ms. Holloway said sidewalk traffic downtown has steadily increased in recent years and has contributed to businesses' success.
“We get a lot of business from people just walking by and going 'Hmmm what's this? It looks interesting,'” she said. “I don't know if this is going to disrupt that and not knowing is a concern.”
Ms. Holloway said construction workers may benefit restaurants but that her antique/gift shop won't.
Argel Barron, a manager at Don Juan's, said she doesn't expect a major benefit from construction crews. She is concerned about already tough-to-come-by parking.
“They're not going to take our spots are they?” she asked. “It will be a mess but as long as they don't take up parking I don't think it will be much of a problem.”
Aside from the parking spots blocked off along the stretch of east Erwin Street, Harris said construction workers also will use some spots next to the site along Spring and Fannin avenues.
Eng and Harris said traffic and site management plans have been discussed for a long time but may be tweaked.
“It's going to take a lot o f coordination but hopefully we'll manage all construction related traffic off of the square,” Eng said.