Engineering plans for Marquette bench evacuation route to continue

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

An emergency evacuation route off the Marquette bench is moving closer to reality. At its June 13 regular meeting, the city council selected one of three potential grading options for the route and gave Bart Nies, with Delta 3 Engineering, the go-ahead to continue engineering plans.

The 3,800-foot-long route, Nies said, will begin at Walnut Street, in Marquette, and end in McGregor. Some parts are steep, he admitted, but none more so than any of the city’s current streets.

The grading option the council selected would include grading a 22-foot-wide route, but graveling only a portion of it. With 14 feet graveled, it would cost an estimated $410,000, according to Delta 3.

The other two options involved grading and graveling a 22-foot-wide road, with double lanes, for an estimated $450,000, or creating just a 14-foot-wide gravel trail, at an estimated $395,000.

Councilman John Ries was leery of the price tag and wondered if the council should take more time to consider the options.

“We talked about a range of $200,000, and now it’s $400,000,” he said. “I think we need to step back and look at this and put a little extra time and thought into it.”

Nies noted the figures are merely a preliminary estimate, not derived from final designs—with tighter figures and quantities—or contractor bids.

Despite the cost, mayor Larry Breuer cautioned against waiting any longer to make a decision.

“This has been talked about for how many years now. I know it’s a lot of money, but we also have a safety factor,” he said. “Trains are getting bigger and more dangerous. If a train derails, people on the bench are in jeopardy. I would not want to turn it down and keep delaying it, then have something happen.”

“I don’t want to spend the money,” Breuer continued, “but I think we need to bite the bullet and go ahead. I’m in favor of protecting our citizens.”

City manager Denise Schneider said she’s looked into potential funding options, but has so far found nothing to help offset the cost.

The council ultimately felt the middle option would be more cost-effective, yet also allow for future development. 

“Let’s get numbers and bids on grading [the 22-foot-wide surface],” said councilwoman Pam Brodie-Fitzgerald, “then we can look at options on gravel width.”

Ries agreed, adding, “We can always add more gravel and widen [the graveled portion] down the road.”

Maiden Voyage

Councilman Steve Eagle said the dock commission met on the riverfront June 7, with Maiden Voyage captain Robert Vavra and Steven and Ruth Gaede, who own property between the fishing pier and boardwalk, to discuss what Vavra would need for docking to operate his Mississippi River tour boat out of the community.

Vavra approached the council in May about the possibility of establishing a permanent home in Marquette, citing space issues and the inability to operate his “sucker shack” floating restaurant as a full-fledged business at his current location on the McGregor riverfront.

No wake signs

Schneider said the Casino Queen Marquette has agreed to donate $807 for installation of no wake signs on the Marquette riverfront. The city will have to be responsible for taking them out, though, she said.

Eagle said the city will opt to place signs, rather than no wake buoys, this year, in hopes that signs will be cheaper and easier to maintain.

“We’ll study how effective it is this summer when there are not buoys put out,” he said.

Chicago Street

The council approved an ordinance vacating a portion of Chicago Street by deed to adjoining property owner Mary Jo Pirc. The street, located behind Pirc’s former Marquette Hardware property, was platted but never created Breuer said.

Public restroom signs

The council approved of placing signage that would notify people at the Marquette overlook that the restrooms on the top floor of the Cobblestone Inn and Suites are available for public use. Overlook visitors can reach the hotel via a small set of bluff stairs. 

Park shelter kitchen

Members of the public renting the park shelter in the city park downtown will no longer be able to utilize the kitchen. The council approved the decision after reports of items being stolen. Renters have also left the kitchen a mess. Now, only community groups who utilize the kitchen for events will be allowed to use it. The kitchen received a major makeover last summer thanks to Eagle Scout Walter Stavroplus. 

North Street parking

The council brought up issues with parking on North Street, with members noting that large vehicles have frequently remained parked for several days downtown, limiting parking for residents and those visiting businesses. The issue was tabled for further discussion.

Railroad quiet zone

Breuer said the city is pursuing establishing a railroad quiet zone in Marquette. It would come with a hefty price tag, though, said Schneider: $250,000 to $275,000 per crossing, or around $1 million total. In the past, Breuer said the railroad has helped other cities pay for part of the cost, but Schneider said the railroad has given no indication it would do so for Marquette.

Even if a quiet zone was established in the city, Brodie-Fitzgerald said it would not completely solve the noise issue.

“It won’t quiet what’s going on in the rail yard,” she explained.

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