First Phase of Marion Corridor Project Near Completion

By Chris Earl, Reporter

Crews work at the intersection of 6th Avenue and 11th Street in Marion. This portion of the Marion Central Corridor Project is The Uptown Streetscape Plan. The construction is approximately four weeks behind schedule due to contractor conflicts This is year one of a twenty year project. (Mark Benischek/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Jay Knoll

MARION, Iowa - For the first weeks and even months of her business, Jeanne White could only watch from the front porch.

"It was really hard when it was going on," said White of the constant construction on 10th Street in Marion. "Forty-nine days for us when the street was closed off."

White and two others operate McGowan House Artisans on the corner of 10th Street and 5th Avenue. The multi-year Marion Corridor Project featured this summer's opening phase, which left quite a few streets torn up in neighborhoods and in the heart of downtown.

While 7th Avenue (Business Hwy. 151) has been largely untouched at this point, crews have dug up 6th Avenue, which is adjacent to the city's public library and other municipal buildings. Drivers spent the late summer and early fall getting force-fed into detours as parking spaces became scare and the orange signs became part of the landscape.

City engineer Dan Whitlow said that because of the phasing of the project, plenty of detour changes have followed.

"We try and encourage people to come and see the businesses and, in that, we want people to stay out of the construction zone," said Whitlow. He added that 1100 block of 6th Avenue is the only closure and that this main secondary road through Marion should be open "by the end of the month".

This stretch of 6th Avenue, between 9th Street and 12th Street, does feature bricks instead of pavement. As the plans of the project transition into the reality for all to see, White said it is a striking result -- even with the weeks where her business was difficult to get to.

"It really is beautiful and we're happy with it," said White. "We're part of the Uptown Business Group and real happy to be here."

Yet drivers may not be so pleased by next year. The major road construction project will be about a mile west, near Marion's border with Cedar Rapids. The next phase for 2013 will include reworking the congested intersection of Blairs Ferry Road and Marion Boulevard, at the entrance to Thomas Park.

"That'll be a nasty detour," admitted Whitlow.

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