City plans revamp of Railroad Avenue

Deidre Cruse

Plaquemine city officials are making final plans for upgrading Railroad Avenue and its sidewalks before letting bids on the final contract of the citywide street program.

“From a traffic point of view, this will be the toughest street we've done,” Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta told the Board of Selectmen last week.

Engineer Tony Arikol of Professional Engineering Consultants of Baton Rouge said Phase II of the current asphalt overlay project is 50 percent complete. The work – last of four contracts the city has already let for its first citywide overlay program in 20 years – should be finished by the end of August, Arikol said.

For Railroad Avenue, Gulotta said, they are planning to remove many of the concrete panels of the major downtown road before overlaying it with asphalt, a process used in 1994 on part of Main Street.

The process probably will cause some “reflective” cracking, but the surface will not be as slippery, either during freezes or rain, he said.

Gulotta and Arikol said the plans call for smoothing out some of the humps of asphalt built up at railroad crossings over the years, but will not be able to eliminate them completely.

At the same time, the mayor said, they are planning to redo sidewalks along Railroad Avenue, with a particular eye to making it harder for cars to go over the curb and into store windows, as happened recently when a woman plowed into the front of the old Shannon's restaurant.

“By the old Jimmy's Grocery, you can see tire marks in the middle of the sidewalks,” he added, “and it's dangerous.”

The curbs also will be made handicapped accessible.

Gulotta said he plans to meet with downtown business owners to talk about how the city can minimize problems for them during construction.

“We've got to get it right,” the mayor said. “If we don't do it right, we could put people out of business – and do it nice, too.”

Gulotta said they hope to resolve utility problems and remove any poles that are hazardous.

He said he and Arikol would present more detailed plans to the city council at its next meeting, on July 12, and to let the contract later this month, with construction to begin in August.