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First Section of Marion's Central Corridor Officially Opens

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MARION, Iowa - After years of debate and planning, the first steps toward Marion's transportation future are officially complete.

"This was the first issue that came up since I was on the council," City Councilmember Joe Spinks said.

With the mayor out of town Spinks, the city's mayor pro tem, wielded the giant-sized scissors this afternoon to cut a length of ribbon on the new steps leading to City Square Park from Sixth Avenue. Improvements to a five-block stretch of the street are the first in the city's Central Corridor plan to speed traffic across town while making the central business district more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly.

It's also all that's planned for now. The overall plan for both Sixth and Seventh avenues to be reworked between roughly Seventh and 31st streets is expected to take about a decade, but no money has been budgeted for further work. The project's $2.6 million first phase was funded with the city's share of local-option sales tax revenue.

City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said the project's next segment will likely be determined by private development on the corridor's east end.

"We know there's interest, but nothing's solidified yet," he said.

But the completed section offers residents and motorists a look at the neighborhood's future, with wide sidewalks, LED streetlights, plantings, and "street furniture" such as benches and waste bins.

"It gets all the parties better suited to what the plan is," said Spinks. "It looks like there's plenty of parking. That was one of the issues."

"I love it," Cathy Petersen, owner of Witte's End Coffeehouse, said as she prepared pastries for tonight's Christmas in the Park. "It's kind of a long process, but I think the end result is just exciting. This spring it should be so much fun to see everything come up green."

The new street's brick paving will be limited to the blocks around the central park - the area Spinks said some residents are calling the "hashtag" because that's what it looks like from above. He said he's glad the project retained the original limestone retaining wall around the park's south edge.

"This was a learning experience, but it was doable," said City Engineer Dan Whitlow.

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