The Wrangell downtown road and utility improvement project is on schedule for completion. During Thursday’s progress meeting Department of Transportation project engineer Eric Voorhees said that if the weather stays nice, they will finish on time.

In the past month the project team has completed most of the underground utility installations up to Curly Ville, and the sub-excavation is complete beyond Episcopal Street. Concrete work has begun near City Market. Voorhees said the community should be aware of changes over the next few weeks.

“I’d say over the next few weeks some of the main things to be looking out for are just traffic pattern changes. We’re trying to get concrete finished everywhere as quick as possible but it definitely takes some time,” he said. “But we may have some traffic pattern changes. St. Michael’s street intersection may be shut down from time to time and same thing with Case Avenue. We’re going to be working on that intersection soon.”

They’ll also be pouring new sidewalks. He asks the community to “definitely be mindful if you do see new concrete on the ground. Don’t write your name in it or touch it or anything. It’ll just delay the process of getting everything back open again. But if we pour concrete one day we can walk on it the next, so there’s not a big down time there, which is nice.” More concrete materials will be arriving on a barge soon as well.

Another very visible change downtown is the installation of the retro-style street lamps. The first 12 luminaires are installed and operational. However, the new downtown streetlamps are not energy efficient LEDs like the ones the city is installing on other roads.

New retro-style lamposts on Front Street near the on-going construction

Public Works Director Carl Johnson said that the city was not allowed to install LED light fixtures because the project is funded with federal highway dollars. Currently, federal highways are not allowed to use LED bulbs because they illuminate things differently than standard ones. The federal regulations that mandate the quantity of lumens put out by each light are still based on old technology. Until the regulations are re-written, LED lights cannot be installed on any federally funded highway projects for the lifetime of that project.

Johnson said that if regulations do change, the city could look into converting the downtown luminaires, but it would mean an involved process of changing the entire fixture. Street lights differ from house lamps in that you can’t just easily change a bulb.