MARION, Iowa - It's year one of a 20 year plan and it's already behind schedule. The city of Marion's Uptown Streetscape Plan would eventually shift traffic from 7th Avenue to 6th Avenue. It comes with an $11 million price tag. The goal is to clear up heavy congestion and make downtown Marion more pedestrian friendly.
The estimate today is that the construction project is about a month behind schedule. It'll take several weeks now until all the brick is down on this stretch of 6th Avenue. So that means it'll be Thanksgiving by the time businesses have more access to their stores.
Monday marked another day serving lunch at Marion's Huntington Restaurant. But there's just one inconvenience if you head out the backdoor: construction. "The project was started with 100 working days. We have about 15 left. Obviously it's going to take more than that to do the project," said Dan Whitlow.
Its phase one of the Uptown Streetscape Plan to rip up and rearrange the city's downtown.
"Marion's been growing about one thousand people a year. So with that comes traffic. A lot of people work in Cedar Rapids so they end up coming through the downtown, uptown area," said Whitlow.
With a mild winter and dry summer it's the perfect conditions for construction. But a perfect storm here in Marion.
"A lot of subcontractors for this area have been busy on other projects. We've been trying to get them back here to work on our project, but they have to be spread throughout the Cedar Rapids metro area and have just gotten behind," said Whitlow.
Construction is behind at least four weeks. That's why you'll see multiple crews working on multiple projects all at once whenever they get the chance. It's just enough confusion for many people to avoid this area altogether.
"When they have the detours and everything they have to go this way and that way and the next time they tried it, it was completely different," said Huntington's Restaurant Owner John Huntington.
John Huntington says the frustration of today is worth it because of the improvements for the future. "It will definitely bring in more parking and more businesses downtown and more pieces of pie for everybody," said Huntington.
It'll take some time to finish brick laying and paving. The next step of tree-scaping and landscaping won't likely happen until spring.