City engineer: Factory Street project is ‘on schedule’

The Factory Street project is finally on schedule and is expected to be completed in October, despite delays and problems with excavating and other issues that have driven the project cost up to $13.5 million. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

The Factory Street project is finally on schedule and is expected to be completed in October, despite delays and problems with excavating and other issues that have driven the project cost up to $13.5 million. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Manager Christopher L. Turck was relieved to hear that the brunt of the $13.5 million Factory Street construction project in front of Mo’s Place should be finished in October.

“It’s been really, really slow,” he said, adding that the 24/7 diner has lost about 60 percent of its business since the project began about a year ago.

But City Engineer Justin L. Wood assured business owners that things will soon get better.

The project — a half-mile stretch between Mill Street and Huntington Street — is now on schedule after crews got a late start last summer. He projected that paving should be completed in October.

The Mill Street bridge also should reopen soon after Labor Day, with paving of that section of Mill Street scheduled for the week of Sept. 5. It’s been closed since early July as part of the Factory Street redo, which includes replacing the sidewalks and curbing and installing new water and sanitary sewers.

Having breakfast at Mo’s Place on Wednesday morning, Vicky Pritty-Pritcher said she decided to hold off on opening two businesses, a gift shop and second-hand furniture store, in a building at 419 Factory St. until after the construction is completed.

“Businesses have been hit hard,” she said, adding that vehicles are also taking a beating from the bumps, holes and grind caused by driving through the roadwork.

Its regular customers and another diner that his family owns, Frieda’s on Court Street, are helping keep Mo’s Place afloat, Mr. Turck said.

He looks forward to seeing a renewed Factory Street.

“It’ll be great once it’s done,” he said. “I’m sure that it’ll draw people then.”

Last week, Northern Credit Union officials decided to close the Factory Street office for two weeks, citing the increase in the level of work on the project.

Before the project began, Morrison’s Furniture opened a second location on Arsenal Street in anticipation of customer traffic slowing down during the construction at their Factory Street location.

The Watertown Local Development Corp. has offered loans up to $10,000 to business owners worried about getting through the lean times during the Factory Street construction.

Mr. Turck said he decided against applying for the loan, since he’d have to pay it back anyway.

The reconstruction won’t be completely finished until the spring of 2017. Plans call for crews to return then to put down a top layer of asphalt and finish the landscaping and some punch list items.

As they continue to get excavation work done, crews will install curbing, followed by paving, Mr. Wood said. Factory Street was a beehive of activity on Thursday morning. For a few minutes, traffic was at a standstill while a front loader dumped excavated stone from the site into a dump truck. Down the street, two excavators were digging trenching for sewer mains, while a worker helped get a dump truck in place. Some curbing on the east side of the project has already been installed.

The project has hit some detours along the way. Work did not start until well into the construction season last summer while the general contractor, CCI Companies, Canastota, ironed out some issues with the state Department of Transportation about its minority and women hiring practices.

Some miscalculations on the scope of the work drove up the project’s cost from $12.9 million to its current $13.5 million price tag. Last month, council members approved a $567,000 change order because CCI crews found more rock that they’ve had to excavate all along the construction site.

By Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times