WILLMAR — Drivers in Willmar will have to deal with more road construction in busy sections of town this year, as an overlay of First Street South is on the city's list of street improvements for 2020.

"We are going to start our phased approach of First Street, on the south end of First Street," said Sean Christensen, Willmar Public Works director.

Christensen presented information on the 2020 improvement projects during the public hearing, held during the March 2 Willmar City Council meeting. The hearing gave the public a chance to comment on the projects. Following the hearing the council authorized the order of the improvements, approved the final plans and specifications for the projects and authorized advertisement for bids.

The First Street project is just one of nine different projects, which include road reconstruction, overlay and path construction.

There are two main road reconstruction projects, where the street is completely reconstructed from the base up. They include Ninth Street Southeast from Willmar Avenue to Pleasantview Drive and Sixth Street Northeast/23rd Avenue North from Country Club Drive to 26th Avenue. The reconstruction projects will include updating utility lines and improving stormwater.

There are two overlay projects on the list. Overlay is the removal of a few inches of road surface which is then replaced with a new layer.

The overlay of First Street will go from 19th Avenue to the westbound state Highway 23 ramps.

"The base is really good," Christensen said of the concrete base of First Street. "This will be replacing the surface."

The second is the overlay of Civic Center Drive from Highway 71 to Kandiyohi County Road 9. This same stretch of road underwent a major overlay project last year, but still requires the final layer of pavement.

"This is the final lift on that road," Christensen said. The project will also correct deficiencies discovered along the northbound shoulder during the 2019 project.

Miscellaneous projects for 2020 are the U.S. Highway 12 West water main, reconstruction of the lower parking lot and overlay of the upper parking lot at First Presbyterian Church, improvements at Sperryville Park and the new construction of a trail along Lakeland Drive Southeast from Olena Avenue to Highway 12 and along Highway 12 from Lakeland Drive to 23rd Street.

"That is going to be a combination of 8- and 10-foot paths," Christensen said. "We are going to drastically improve that section."

All totaled the projects are estimated to cost more than $6 million.

"That may look a little shocking," Christensen said. However, the trail project is being funded entirely with federal funds.

Other funding sources include the state, Willmar Municipal Utilities, bonding and special assessments. Only road reconstruction and overlay projects can be assessed.

Property owners will be assessed for projects on the address side of their property. In the past the assessed value for a reconstruction project was around $85 per foot and $45 per foot for overlay. While specific numbers are not yet known for the 2020 projects, Christensen believes the per-foot costs should be similar.

"I'm anticipating it being pretty close to that range," Christensen said.

There were several members of the public at the improvement hearing last month, asking questions about stormwater improvements, assessments and access to homes and day cares during construction.

"I am hopeful we can provide as much access as possible," Christensen said.

The bid opening for the projects is scheduled April 20 and the city will be requiring all bids to be sent to the city using an electronic format using a secure website. Electronic bids have several advantages, according to Assistant Willmar City Engineer Bruce Cochran.

In an email to the West Central Tribune, Cochran said electronic bidding ensures no mathematic errors, no incomplete bids and allows contractors to make changes to their bids up to the time of bid submittal. This will also allow contractors to submit bids at a remote location, instead of them having to come to the city offices.

Going forward, the city will use electronic bidding for future roadway projects.

The assessment hearing for the 2020 road project is currently scheduled for May 18, which is also when the contractor bids will be awarded. Construction should begin in June and wrap up in October.