MUSCATINE — The congestion that has plagued downtown Muscatine for the past seven months will be partially alleviated this weekend, according to city officials.
By 5 p.m. Friday, Mississippi Drive, from Iowa Avenue to Broadway Street, should be reopened to local traffic, Project Manager Bill Haag said. Iowa Avenue to Mulberry Avenue will remain closed for winter work, but drivers can begin traveling on half of the roadway this weekend.
"For me ... as somebody who used to drive Mississippi Drive ... there was always frustration dodging potholes and broken pavement and such," Haag said. "Now we have ... lanes that are smooth, beautiful and wide. I think people are going to enjoy the ride portion of it, just from that perspective."
The reopening should also help businesses on the stretch of road heading west on the Mississippi River, according to Haag, such as Contrary Brewing and Nutrition Outlet, plus businesses on Iowa Avenue, like Missipi Brew and Tantra Thai Bistro.
"Obviously we've restricted their access with the new roadway," he said. "Deliveries and getting to them has been a challenge. [The businesses] have worked with us and been great, but really what we're trying to do now is get them access back to the public."
Plus, he said, businesses should benefit from additional parking spaces added on Mississippi Drive.
Detours through downtown Muscatine will mostly stay the same, with signs likely to stay at Grandview Avenue and Main Street, directing truck traffic to travel around Main Street and onto 8th Street.
"What our real preference is that it would still be local traffic only, and not really hoping to have through truck traffic go by there," he said. "If somebody down at the Southend wants to get to the north end, soon we'll have a scenic Mississippi Drive for them, but at this point in time, we're considering this opening for local traffic only."
And while the portion of Mississippi Drive will reopen, Haag said the intersection with Iowa Avenue will not open right away. The Canadian Pacific Railway is currently reconstructing the crossing, but new equipment, such as crossing arms and signals for the "Quiet Zone" designation, will probably not arrive until next month.
The Iowa Avenue intersection will not be a full four-way stop until work is completed on the crossing. Eastbound traffic on Mississippi Drive will not be able to drive past Iowa Avenue, and will not be able to turn right toward the river.
Eastbound traffic can turn left onto Iowa Avenue, though, and traffic traveling down Iowa toward the river will only be able to turn right to travel west on Mississippi Drive.
Once the work on the Iowa Avenue intersection is complete, it will become the main access point for people traveling to the Mississippi River. Then, the Cedar Street intersection will be closed to traffic.
Haag said the unusually warm weather has helped progress construction since Thanksgiving, but despite concrete work being completed, crews are rushing to meet Friday's deadline.
Muscatine Power and Water is placing temporary lighting on Mississippi Drive, according to Haag, while crews do temporary line-painting and work on landscaping and street cleaning.