Work on first phase of McGregor Main Street project finally getting underway

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By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The first phase of McGregor’s long-awaited Main Street reconstruction project is getting underway this week with initial utility work—which will not impact traffic—in the Front Street alley between Backwoods and Kwik Star. Construction on Main Street will begin Monday, April 3, and continue through the fall.


The project has included construction of a new Front Street lift station and corresponding force main, and will move to water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer utility upgrades and full reconstruction of Main Street. It’s been in the works since 2019, to address excessive inflow and infiltration to McGregor’s over-100-year-old sanitary sewer system.


Work will be completed over two years, starting with phase I in 2023 through McGregor’s downtown, from B Street to River Street. The second phase, in 2024, will encompass Main Street south of B Street.


Main Street will be closed starting April 3, but according to a press release from the city of McGregor on March 19, contractor Portzen Construction has found a way to reduce the span of the Main Street closure in downtown during the interim phase of the project. This effort will allow more accessibility through downtown and less disruption to the business district during this time.   


Through April and May, the road closure will now be limited to a shorter stretch of Main Street, largely in front of Kwik Star and the riverfront. After that, Main Street will be closed from B Street to the riverfront.


There will be no access to McGregor from the north (from Marquette) during phase I. Motorists will follow a signed detour route using U.S. 18 and Iowa 76 to reach McGregor from the west. Changeable message signs will be in place along the route to provide any updates for future traffic pattern changes.


From the detour, there will be access to B Street and the First Street parking lot through the majority of construction, said Alex Jaromin, project engineer with Davy Engineering, who spoke at a public information meeting on March 14. In mid-August, Portzen will work on the Third and B Street intersection construction, to install utilities and pavement to just south of B Street. 


“We’re coordinating this with a Viserion shutdown. They’re doing this with a maintenance project at that time,” Jaromin said. “All of the main line north of B Street will be paved at that time.”


Nov. 15 is the phase I completion date.


“Obviously, this first year we are in the commercial business district. That’s a major burden on the businesses,” Jaromin said. “The contractor is going to work on the street work first and the main line, leaving the majority of sidewalks and railing in place. There will be some removal for utility work, but that sidewalk would be replaced with temporary aggregate surface so there will always be access to the businesses.” 


The contractor will notify businesses and residents days in advance if there are going to be any temporary utility shutoffs. Sewer service will not be interrupted, and water service would be restored in two to three hours at the most.


In the event of an emergency, Jaromin said the contractor can take down barricades.


“Let’s say they’re paving. It is what it is—they have to go through that new concrete,” he stated. “And the water main will always be in service, so it’s not like there won’t be fire protection at any time.”


Garbage and recycling collection will be at the First Street parking lot. Waste Management will provide two dumpsters that will be dropped off every Monday evening and picked up every Wednesday morning. 


Since the main access to the post office is off Main Street, Jaromin noted a temporary access road will go through the Boeke property next door. That can be reached from B Street. Motorists will then follow a one-way route through the alley between the post office and Alexander Hotel to the alley between Daisy Kay Crystals, Coffee and Gifts and Old Man River Restaurant and Brewery, before taking A Street (along Triangle Park) to First Street and back to B Street.


Another major disruption will be to the marina.


“Unfortunately, our boat launch will mostly be closed for the season. It’s mostly going to be pedestrian access,” said McGregor Deputy City Clerk and Economic Development Lead Brandi Crozier. “We are going to provide access to north marina slip holders and people who are patronizing the rental businesses. They’ll be able to come from Marquette and get to the north marina for that, but that won’t be for the general public. This project is probably going to be hardest on the marina, as far as businesses go.”


Curt Marx, field representative with Davy Engineering, said the barriers at Anti-Monopoly Street in Marquette, next to the casino, are going to be staggered. 


“It’s going to appear you can drive around them and keep coming south toward McGregor. You can, but when you get just south of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife building, that is going to be a hard closure. There’s no way past that,” he stressed.


The city has adjusted traffic flow and parking temporarily to accommodate the project. When Main Street is fully closed, parking will largely be in the First Street parking lot. The B Street lot next to Steve’s Silver Dollar will also be accessible.


Parking around Triangle Park will be temporarily moved to angled spaces to maintain as many spots as possible and allow accessibility for one-way traffic. It will be the same on A Street.


There, said Crozier, “The Paper Moon side of the road will be angled parking and Bickel Insurance will be no parking for motorists. We’ll be staging deliveries there for businesses.”


Directional signage will be used to help residents and visitors reach parking, the post office, Kwik Star, businesses and the riverfront.


“There will be signage that’s specific to traffic and signage that’s specific to getting to the businesses themselves,” Crozier said. “It all starts up on Highway 18, directing people into town and letting them know our business community is open, our marina is open. When people come into town, at the B and Third Street intersection, where you would turn to go to Viserion, that’s where the shutdown is largely going to occur. In front of those barricades, we’re going to have signage directing people to the individual businesses.” 


Pedestrian signage will be on totems, which will be placed at three locations. One will go between Paper Moon and Bickel Insurance and another between Daisy Kay and Triangle Park, where a pathway across Main Street will be left open for pedestrians. The third will be by the public restrooms, to guide pedestrian traffic coming off the riverfront.


Crozier said the city and McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce are collaborating on a downtown map, which will be available soon. A community notification system is also up and running. Residents, business owners and other regular visitors can sign up to receive notifications via text, email or a pre-recorded phone message. There is an option to receive all community notifications, just construction related notifications or just utility related notifications. People can find the sign up link at or contact city hall.


Any major construction updates will be shared in the Times-Register and with other media. The city also has an expansive construction tab on its website, where updates will be posted.


Crozier stressed that businesses intend to remain open throughout construction.


“It’s really important we support our downtown businesses and help communicate that they are open, that they are accessible and that the sidewalk is still there,” she said. “When people come to town, we’re doing everything we can to help them navigate as best as possible. Our chamber and our businesses are also working together to run some promotions and activities to encourage business to still happen downtown.”


At the public information meeting, McGregor Mayor Lyle Troester acknowledged the project hasn’t been easy. Work was slated to begin last spring when a delay in approval from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) pushed it off a year.


There’s been a 14 percent cost increase since due to concrete and hard fill prices as well as fuel and hauling, according to Troester. He said that’s the equivalent of $1.2 million to the $8.5 million total, which is simply for construction work.


“I have been writing to congressmen, state legislators and the Iowa DOT because this is going to increase costs,” Troester said. “In addition to that, because we had to do archeological digging [at SHPO’s request], that was $92,000 for those holes. Because we found some strips of leather, there’s more digging that has to be done on the upper part of the street. That’s going to have a cost of about $56,000. We have a unique situation.”


“But we’ve come a long way on this project. We’ve worked pretty tirelessly...and it’s given us a year to do extra preparation,” he added. “It’s going to be good in the long run. I ask you all to work together. If you have a business, stay open. If you’re a customer, try to support the businesses. We’re going to get through this and it’s going to be a sharp deal when it’s done.”

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