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Beauty Remains Months Away for Downtown Durham Streetscape

The project to make streets and sidewalks a pleasure for drivers and pedestrians is running behind schedule and over budget.

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DURHAM, N.C. — A major project in downtown Durham is $2 million over budget and is expected to be three months overdue, but officials remain confident it will make for a pleasant urban experience — once it's done.

The goal is to make the downtown area easier to navigate and more attractive, but getting there has had more than a few challenges since the streetscape project began in 2005. The result has been challenges for people trying to get through the area, too.

Gary Shaw, who works downtown, jokes, “It's like navigating a mine field!”

So far, the project has brought trees, decorative streetlamps and brick sidewalks to downtown. The project was supposed to be finished in March. Then the deadline was extended to mid-April. Now, the city hopes work will be done by mid-June.

Edward Venable, assistant engineering manager, said there have been headaches since the beginning. Delays sprang from a series of unexpected problems, such as trolley tracks buried under the streets and dozens of basements and old coal chutes under sidewalks that no one knew about.

“Right now, we're trying to finish up the rest of the sidewalks,” Venable said.

This week, workers are scheduled to begin paving the streets, a two-week project. Then, they'll add decorative, stamped concrete to the intersections.

“In order to do that, we have to excavate the intersection, pour the concrete in and let it dry,” Venable explained, so drivers and pedestrians will still have to carefully navigate the city streets.

“I'm sure there'll be some outstanding items we have to deal with” in a couple of months, Venable said. “But by and large, people will be able to come downtown and say ‘that looks really good.’”

City engineers say the increase in cost is due to the various problems they've run into and the fact that the prices of asphalt and steel have risen since the $10 million budget was set.



Julia Lewis, Reporter
Pete James, Photographer
Ron Gallagher, Web Editor

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