By Pat Kernan and Roger DuPuis, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Six city streets, including a bumpy stretch of South Main in the downtown area, have been put out to bid for paving and milling this summer, officials said Monday, with another round to be bid out in the near future.
Parts of North Sherman, South Sherman, Mill, Mayock and Northampton streets also are on the list, for which bids are due by 9:30 a.m. May 14. Information for bidders is available on the city’s website and in the City Clerk’s Office.
Tyler Ryan, executive assistant to Mayor Tony George, said work should start sometime in June and finish by the fall. The streets in question were chosen by the city’s Operations Department based on residents’ input and overall condition, Ryan added.
Ryan said about $500,000 has been budgeted for the paving, but “we won’t know how much we can spend on Phase II until this round of bidding is complete.”
The project is funded through Community Development Block Grants and the city’s general fund.
The second round of streets to be paved, which have not yet been identified, will be put out to bid in late spring or early summer, Ryan said.
For residents and business people, news of the pending paving projects came not a moment too soon.
Norene Mudzik, who works at Marquis Art & Frame on South Main Street, is a Mountain Top resident, but she said she’s been working in downtown Wilkes-Barre for 35 years.
And she says the roads are a mess.
“The roads are terrible,” Mudzik said. “Everyone’s cars are getting damaged.”
Mudzik said the roads’ conditions necessitate unsafe driving: drivers are often forced to choose between hitting a pothole head on, or swerving into the opposite lane.
Mudzik is hoping for an expansion of the project, though, as she said other locations of the city need attention. She specifically highlighted Blackman Street as an area plagued with potholes.
Closer to Public Square, Rasheed Willis, owner of Gayle’s Scents, agreed that work needs to go into the roads, but he said considerations need to be made for the businesses on South Main Street.
Willis said repairing the road in that area is especially important, as the potholes present not only a hazard for drivers, but also for the increased pedestrian traffic from Wilkes University.
“Wilkes-Barre needs a new look,” Willis said. But he said there are cons to be considered from a business perspective.
“They usually do the work during our business hours,” Willis said. Road closures and blockages of pedestrian traffic will hurt his business for the length of the work, even if there’s a benefit to the business after the work is completed.
Willis, a Nanticoke resident who’s operated his store in downtown for three years, said that, while the work is going on, the city should consider some sort of event to augment the loss of customers the road work could cause. Willis specifically suggested a festival on Public Square that could allow the businesses to continue to connect with customers.
One of his customers, Heather Kister, is a Wilkes-Barre resident, who lives on Northampton Street, one of the streets to be improved in the project. Kister said she’s hoping the work is done right, instead of just being a temporary fix.
Kister specifically mentioned a large pothole she sees repeatedly opening on Northampton Street that she says often floods.
“They keep filling the potholes instead of fixing the problem,” she said.
The work planned on the six streets listed in the bid process does, as noted, call for milling and paving.
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The project to be bid out consists of milling and paving of the following streets:
• South Main Street – from Public Square to Ross Street.
• North Sherman Street – Coal Street to Amber Lane.
• South Sherman Street – from Northampton to South Street.
• Mill Street – from the light at Scott Street to George Avenue.
• Mayock Street – from East Main to Scott Street.
• Northampton Street – from Washington to South Main Street.