Dec. 4—Street projects are a top priority for the Newton City Council in the coming years, and the street that officials think needs the most work is West Sixth Street South.
Commonly used by community members to access H.A. Lynn Stadium for various school sports activities, the street needs to be resurfaced and widened. The project received the most votes from council members during a 2022-2024 goal setting session a few months ago. It is estimated to cost $520,000.
Newton City Administrator Matt Muckler was sure improvements to West Sixth Street South would be on the council's list, but he did not expect it to rate so high. The street is accessible by a main artery of South Eighth Avenue West, which also provides entrance to the high school.
West Sixth Street South is 20 to 22 feet wide at some points, Muckler said. The city would widen the street up to 31 feet all the way from Eighth Avenue to 11th Avenue. The narrow passageway has been an issue brought up by residents, particularly Dixie Casady, at past council meetings.
When people park their cars on the street for events at the football stadium or when parents are picking up their children at Woodrow Wilson Elementary — a building that already has accessibility issues — the Newton resident was concerned emergency vehicles would not be able to pass by.
"So what we did out there this year is going out there and basically block off both sides of parking on the stretch with temporary signage," Muckler said. "But we knew we needed to address this street. This will be widening it out to 31 feet and doing and mill and overlay all the way down to the stadium."
The project is well-timed, too. The Newton Community School District is planning to construct a new baseball field just south of H.A. Lynn Stadium and the softball field. Muckler said the baseball diamond would likely increase the amount of traffic to the street in the future.
"This is really kind of becoming a hub and an important street to connect people to all those events," Muckler said. "Not only did the people in the neighborhood need it widened for every day use and being able to get emergency vehicles in and out, but also for events."
Jody Rhone, director of public works, said the designs for the project have not been made and the scope of work has not yet been determined. But he did highlight some of the issues the project would address. For instance there is no curb or gutter from Ninth Avenue to 11th Avenue, the narrowest section.
"So the water just runs off the street right onto the grass," Rhone said. "And because it is such a narrow street people were always kind of parking on the grass and creating mud holes along the street ... Eventually if you go far enough south it's a 31-foot wide street, clear down to 14th or 15th Avenue."
The street could just require an overlay in some areas or a complete reconstruction. Rhone does not know at this point. Admittedly, the public works director was surprised to see this project as the No. 1 city council goal. The project has been in the city's capital improvement plan for years.
"Some of it may just be timing. Some of it may be because there have been people talking about it because it's come to council. Might just be because council members went and looked at it when we just had a rain or something and they saw all the water standing on the road," Rhone said.
Or it could be the relatively cheaper price tag compared to other street projects.
General fund dollars will exclusively pay for the West Sixth Street South project, which would be budgeted for the July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024 fiscal year.
"I would anticipate this project would happen in the spring of 2024," Muckler said.