More work lies ahead on Main Street

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Two blocks of Main Street has been repaired and repaved to emulate Virginia’s Colonial capital with its split pebble coating and traffic is flowing freely again. But lest one think the street disruption is all over, it’s not. There is more to come. 

The next phase includes replacing the water lines in the 300 block, from slightly west of Institute Street to Underwood Lane, according to Smithfield Director of Planning, Zoning and Public Works William Saunders.  

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Once those are replaced, the street will be repaved to match the 100 and 200 blocks, said Saunders. 

However, funding for that work is not in the current fiscal year’s budget and would have to be added in an upcoming year, said Saunders. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The next fiscal year begins July 1, 2019, with budget discussions with the Town Council typically beginning in the spring.

Saunders said the water line work in the 300 block wasn’t completed at the same time as the 100 and 200 block due to funding not being allocated for the project.

Mayor Carter Williams said the entire Main Street water line replacement wasn’t done at once due to lack of money. Williams said that once the town completes the Pinewood Heights relocation project, there will be some more money to work with. 

The Pinewood Heights relocation project has been underway for years and is in its final phases. The project involves moving residents of that neighborhood behind Smithfield Packing to other locations. 

Williams acknowledged that the town had been busy with several other projects. In the last two years, the town has taken on a $4 million sports complex and a multi-million dollar restoration of Windsor Castle Park — both fueled in part by donations from Smithfield Foods and former Foods CEO and President, Joseph W. Luter III. 

Fortunately, the other part of the project, replacing the gas lines by Columbia Gas of Virginia, has been completed throughout the length of Main Street, said Saunders.  

Saunders said the 300 block work will not involve the intersection of Institute and Main streets, which should offer some relief. It will also not be done when similar work is being done on Grace Street, he said. 

Grace Street is slated for repaving by VDOT, but before that occurs, the water lines and mains along that road also need to be replaced. That project has been estimated at $1.2 million and would take six to eight months. 

Williams said the work on Grace Street will likely begin before the 300 block of Main Street, and that could be over the next two fiscal years. 

Ideally, it would be good to replace the lines under Main and Grace streets at the same time, said Williams. 

Work on Main Street has been underway — with lengthy breaks in between — since early 2017. 

The water line work was undertaken in early 2017 and took a couple of months, ditto for the gas line project, which began in early 2018. The recent repaving began in September and finished up last week. 

During those periods, parking availability and access to certain areas of Main Street was a challenge, and businesses were kept informed about progress. Much of the work was done in the dead of winter to lessen the impact on local merchants. 

Christi Chatham, who manages Victoria’s Rose in the 300 block, was aware that the water line project would extend down the remainder of Main Street, she just didn’t know when. 

And while the disruptions have been a concern, Chatham remains optimistic about the final leg of the project.

“We lived through one project. We can live through one more,” she said. 

Joseph McCain, who owns Fleur de Fou and heads up the Genuine Merchants of Downtown Smithfield, is not happy to hear that the 300 block is likely going to be closed again when the water line work begins. 

Neither is Mary Oszust, who along with her husband Brian, recently opened Smithfield Home Furnishings, also in the 300 block.

McCain and Oszust said they didn’t understand why the town couldn’t have done the entire project at once. 

Every time they close Main Street, it’s hard on the business, McCain and Oszust said. 

Williams said he appreciates everyone’s cooperation during the project. 

Dust will end

Main Street now has its new coating, but it sure is dusty. Smithfield Town Engineer Wayne Griffin said the dust will likely settle once it rains and it can wash away into the storm gutters. Rain from Hurricane Michael is expected here beginning on Thursday, which will give the sidewalks and everything else a good rinsing off. 

“It’s not going to be forever,” said Griffin of the dust that is the likely result of the gravel being split prior to it being applied to the street.  {/mprestriction}