By Joel Hall
After years of planning, the City of Jonesboro has begun its long-awaited Streetscape project.
In a contract-signing ceremony Thursday morning, city officials met with contractors from CMES, Inc., at Jonesboro City Hall to sign off on the first phase of the project. The first phase, at a cost of $2.73 million, will involve burying utilities underground, adding new sidewalks, and new traffic lights along Main Street, between College and Spring streets.
CMES, Inc., Project Manager Chet Welch said the company is expected to get the notice to proceed with the work next week. He said the first phase will take exactly one year, from start to finish.
"It will take us 365 days, from the time we get the notice to proceed, to complete phase one," Welch said. The company will relocate 6,000 feet of telephone, power, and cable lines, "so it looks cleaner through the city," he said. "We've got an underground bore that will dig underneath the railroad tracks. We're not going to disturb the rail lines in any way."
Welch said work that interferes with traffic will be restricted to the hours between 9 a.m., and 3 p.m. He said some lanes will be closed from time to time. "People should be able to get around with only a 10-minute delay at most," Welch said. "We don't want to disrupt things anymore than we have to."
Jonesboro Councilwoman Pat Sebo was one of several city officials to attend Thursday's signing ceremony. She believes the project will have a "huge impact" on the city's tourism, and its ability to attract and keep businesses.
"With Jonesboro being the county seat, it could definitely use a bit of a face lift every now and then," Sebo said. "It has so much history. It's one of those jewels that people of Clayton County pass through, and we forget what it has to offer. We are just going to bring it to their attention a little more."
"I hope it's going to make people want to come down to Jonesboro and see it," said Councilman Bobby Wiggins, who was also at Thursday's ceremony. "Hopefully, some businesses and tourists will come here and make Jonesboro a better place. We would love to see some restaurants come in."
Wiggins said the Streetscape improvements will also include turning some angled parking along Main Street into parallel parking, keeping with the theme of Streetscape.
Another feature of the project, Sebo said, is that the city sidewalks will be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She said the Streetscape improvements will make the city safer for the city's disabled residents.
"I have seen this particular gentleman, who is blind, who walks through the city quite a bit," Sebo said. "We have many people who are bound to scooters and wheelchairs, and this will allow them to get through the city without the fear of falling down in areas, or getting hit by vehicles. We have to be ADA compliant in so many other areas, why not our sidewalks?"
Barbara Emert, director of Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., is currently in the process of selling commemorative bricks, which will dot the sidewalks of the downtown area, once the first phase of the project is finished. She said she believes the Streetscape project will help promote Jonesboro to the region.
"I'm looking forward to have street lights and being able to put up some [hanging] banners for our events," Emert said. "It [Streetscape] adds a festive air. It makes you feel like the people care about the community. We believe it will really improve the downtown area and make it more attractive to tourists."
In August 2008, Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox said two subsequent phases of the project, which include greenery, curb-and-sidewalk improvements, will take place, after the first phase is completed, and that a "rough estimate" of the final cost of the project is $3 million.
Staff writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this article.