Doing the Orange Barrel Polka

In this week’s Buzz, Bunny the Newshound column entitled Orange Barrel Polka, The NewsDog incorrectly identified the Spire Subcontractor as Mears Construction. The correct Spire Subcontractor is Miller Pipeline.

We regret the error.

If you’re like we are here at the House of News, you are no doubt tired of the constant, traffic-snarling construction along Independence Avenue. Once the barrels disappear from one place, they suddenly reappear at a new location, sometimes a mere block away, blocking different lanes and bringing traffic to a standstill once again.

Such is the case of the Spire utility construction that has snarled the Avenue near Independence and Chestnut for months that at one point in time, involved two different contractors doing work on both sides of the Avenue.

When the cones disappeared from there in March or April, they only moved a block east to Independence and Gladstone, blocking the eastbound right lane to Benton Boulevard and beyond. This past week, the cones moved again to Independence and Indiana, completely blocking access to Eleos Coffee House from the Avenue with zero prior notice.

“Hi! We’re from the gas company and we’re here to kill your business trade for the next 14-21 days, thank you for your support. Can we use your bathroom?”

When the construction foreman with [Miller Pipeline], the subcontractor doing Spire’s gas line work, was asked by Eleos Honcho Dan Smith for some basic customer access to his business, orange safety netting around the holes they dug in the sidewalk adjacent to the front door, and, most importantly, not to operate their massive earth tamper equipment because it would seriously damage their 100+ year old building, Smith was met with indignance and the flip comment, “Well, I’ll talk to my supervisor about it but we gotta do what we gotta do.”

Seriously? So apparently these subcontractors have the right to not only make our lives a living hell with their multiple inconveniences such as noise, dust, road blockage and unsafe site practices, they also have the right to destroy our buildings and livelihoods in the name of upgrading utilities.

How gratifying.

We’re not even going to get into the egregious and highly un-necessary “improvements’’ that to this day continue to confuse motorists and cause unsafe conditions at Independence and Van Brunt. The brave firefighters at Station 23 have to navigate a 70,000-pound tiller truck, with a hook and ladder in everyday parlance through a much smaller space with errant motorists driving the wrong way up an already narrower lane. Once again, the City is solving a non-existent problem by creating an unsafe solution. But the NewsDog digresses – on to more orange barrel polka madness!

Then there’s the never-ending debacle at Independence and The Paseo. How many more months does the Historic Northeast community have to live with that hot mess? Apparently, for the foreseeable future, if an email from the grading contractor is to be believed.

The intersection was the topic of discussion on social media recently so a long-time friend of the NewsDog penned an email to the Project Manager at Amino Brothers Heavy and Highway Construction Company, the contractor doing the work at the intersection. The email response, dated June 2, 2023, outlined in detail the reason for the ongoing delays. The June 2 date on the email is also key in understanding just how long the contractor has been waiting for a single utility, Spectrum, to move their cable.

We were at the site on the morning of Monday, June 19, and nobody was movin’ any dirt when we rolled through. For the record, Spectrum has to move cable off of four, count em, four utility poles at the site. This ain’t a big job. We’ll just put the important stuff from that email right here:

“This project has experienced some major utility delays due to utilities conflicting with the proposed construction,” the email from Amino Brothers reads. “When we closed Independence Avenue west of Paseo, we learned Evergy had underground power lines that needed to be lowered and moved out of our way as well as removing utility poles. We also learned that Google Fiber and Spectrum had fiber optic lines that were also in conflict. Both Evergy and Google have relocated their facilities but we are still waiting on Spectrum to relocate. They told us over a week ago that it would be another three weeks before they could switch everything over to their new lines, but they also told us it would be three weeks about a month prior to that, we spent over a month where there was no work we could perform because utilities were in our way at every location we attempted to work.”

“To answer your question regarding when this intersection will reopen, we hope to have Independence Avenue open west of Paseo by October,” the contractor continued. “This is dependent on Spectrum getting their relocation done. We will then begin work on Independence Avenue east of Paseo, which we hope to have completed by May of 2024.”

Read it and weep folks, straight from the horse’s mouth. The horse in this case is a union highway and grading contractor with deadlines to meet. In most jobs like this, if deadlines aren’t met, the contractor risks getting docked for delays, even if the delay is outside the purview of the contractor.

That said, looks like we have another six months of this excrement sammich to look forward to at Independence and The Paseo and that’s if – and this is an awful big IF – Spectrum decides all of a sudden it’s a priority to get off their collective duffs and move some cable.

If not, count on this mess continuing through Christmas and beyond.

Cue the music, boys!

Footnote: Frankly, it really doesn’t make a difference. Both Miller Pipeline and Mears are tearing up our streets and one is as bad as the other but the NewsDog is, if nothing else, accurate. (smh)

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