The Braasch Ave. project was a complete reconstruction of an industrial section of downtown Norfolk, Nebraska. The existing condition of the area was a 60- by 80-ft right of way (ROW) with 3- to 4-ft sidewalks on each side and the remaining ROW was all street. The street was in disrepair as the asphalt overlay was breaking up and the underlying concrete was rubble in most places. The area was prone to flooding due to undersized storm sewer and inadequate inlets along the street. The project also included one block of reconstruction on 4th St. as well.
Braasch Ave. parallels Norfolk Ave., which serves as Norfolk’s main business district one block south of the project. Braasch Ave. is used by most locals to bypass the heavy traffic on Norfolk Ave. and it serves as the quickest way to get from 1st St. to 7th St. in this area. Traffic Control was a large element in this project and the contractor, Penro Construction, had to limit disruption to downtown traffic as much as possible.
The redeveloped Braasch Ave. now has a 27-ft wide mainline street with turning lanes at intersections, ome parallel parking near the businesses, and 11-ft sidewalks (with 7 ft dedicated to bicycle traffic and 4 ft dedicated to pedestrian traffic) parallel the street. The areas that don’t have parallel parking have a sod or landscaped terrace and each intersection has a large planter with shrubs, perennial flowers, and ornamental grasses. There is a total of 74 shade trees planted throughout the five-block project. The new street has been well received by the public and has brought character to what used to be an eyesore in downtown Norfolk.
There were several challenges to this project. This area is a very active industrial and commercial area with a few apartments and houses throughout it. Access for homeowners and businesses was required 24/7. Access was provided through temporary streets behind the curb on each side of the new street.
Norfolk is 100 miles from the nearest quarry so crushed rock surfacing for streets and subgrade rock is much more expensive than in most areas. To save money on the temporary access roads, Penro Construction purchased a bucket crusher/grinder to recycle the asphalt and sidewalks into surface material. The savings for both material and trucking far offset the cost of the bucket and crushing labor and it avoided hauling the asphalt to a landfill. The existing street was crushed and screened offsite for reuse as subbase.
The largest underground improvement was to the storm sewer system. A main 48-in. RCP trunk line was installed from 1st to 3rd Streets. This new main was laid with more grade than the existing main and was over 14 ft deep on the low end. Dewatering was necessary for the installation of this main and poor soil conditions required replacement of existing soils to meet compaction specs.
The existing storm sewer trunk line was kept in service from 3rd St. to 5th St. with significant work done in the intersections to improve drainage. To speed up field installation of the storm sewer (and to supplement the crew’s winter shutdown the previous season) Penro precast 48 storm sewer inlets and 4 large manholes for this project. This sped the process up significantly.
Water and sanitary sewer were replaced throughout the 5 blocks also. There was approximately 2,000 ft of each and 30 service lines in that stretch. Continuous water and sewer service to adjacent properties was achieved as required by the specs.
The most noticeable of the improvements is the new street and sidewalks. As described above the new street is significantly narrower than the former. There was nearly 15,000 sq yd of paving removed with 9,200 sq yd paved. There was nearly 30,000 sq ft of sidewalk removed with over 43,000 sq ft of sidewalk installed. The work on 4th St. included replacing a railroad crossing.
The last major challenge with this project was the schedule. Penro was originally scheduled to start the project on April 13, 2020. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City asked Penro to delay the start of construction at least one month to avoid a complete shutdown after removing the street. The start date was pushed back to May 18, which put Penro right up to the contract completion date of Dec. 15 listed on the preliminary schedule. Penro accommodated the request and through better production than expected and a great construction season of weather managed to finish the project ahead of schedule despite the later start.
“It was a very unique and challenging job at times, but everything came together and turned out great. All of our subcontractors did a good and helped make the project go smooth,” said Dyllon Kinning, project superintendent.
The main benefit to the public for this project is replacing a street and storm sewer, water, and sewer mains that were all in terrible condition and beyond repair. Some additional benefits are the replacement of an eyesore and developing the area to be an attraction for an upcoming neighborhood in the City. This project is the first in a series of projects that will redevelop the River Point area and transform it from dilapidated properties into an entertainment district with outdoor venues and highlighted with a redesigned riverfront to accommodate kayak traffic down the Elkhorn River. This is a large undertaking for the City of Norfolk and will be a major attraction to the City.
“As Norfolk continues to serve as a regional hub of Northeast Nebraska, an intentional focus has been placed on developing the downtown area to better serve our community,” said John A. Cahill, Staff Engineer, City of Norfolk. “The Braasch Avenue project has provided a crucial step in the downtown revitalization of Norfolk. This improvement project has opened the door to provide safe and welcoming pedestrian and vehicular access into Norfolk’s downtown area where residents and visitors alike can feel welcomed to work and play.”
Water and sewer pipe and fittings – Lincoln Winwater*
Sanitary sewer manholes and RCP – American Concrete Products*
Aggregate materials – Matteo Sand and Gravel
Redi-mix concrete – Gerhold Concrete, West Hodson Redi-Mix
Concrete Paving – Elkhorn Paving Construction Co.
Street Lighting / Traffic Signals – IES Commercial, Inc.
Landscaping – ASPM
Traffic Control – Dakota Traffic Services
Dewatering – Williams Drilling*
Directional Boring – Bauer Underground*