Here’s what Belleville commuters need to know about the latest Main Street disruptions

Shopkeepers on West Main Street and commuters trying to get in and out of downtown have had to deal with construction work and road closures for about a year on the busy street.

And they can look forward to disruptions until the spring of 2021 for the streetscape project that may cost the city up to $5 million.

When all the new sewer lines, storm water drains, new water lines, sidewalks, curbs, pavement and lamp posts are installed from Sixth Street to 17th Street, city leaders say the finished view along this stretch of Main Street will be worth the inconveniences caused by the multi-year construction project.

The city is doing all of the work except for the water lines, which are being installed by Illinois American Water.

Here’s an update on the major phases of the project:

Phase 1 almost finished

The initial phase of the project, which began last year, included new sanitary sewer lines and a new storm water runoff lines from Sixth to 12th streets. Previously, the storm water overflow ran in the sewer line but now these lines are separated.

The sewer line work took longer than expected because the lines had to be installed deeper in the ground and run in different direction than originally planned.

Because of the extra work, the city has agreed to pay DMS Contracting of Mascoutah an additional $222,000 on top of the $799,000 it already agreed to pay.

West Main work.JPG
Crews work on the West Main Street project in Belleville. The first phase of sewer line and water main work is about finished in the section from Sixth to 12th streets. The streetscape work may begin next week. Mike Koziatek

Work during Phase 1 also was delayed when city officials said Illinois American Water took at least five weeks longer than expected to complete testing of the new water lines it installed when the city had the street torn up for the sewer line work.

“The whole plan had to be changed and adjusted,” Mayor Mark Eckert said. “It was nobody’s fault. It’s just that we have old, old, old, old sewers. We ran into some very unique, unexpected problems.”

Illinois American spent $1.2 million to replace water main pipes originally installed in the 1940s.

“We are required by Illinois EPA to complete water samples during new construction. This process took longer than expected and we apologize for the inconvenience,” Illinois American Water spokeswoman Karen Cotton said in a statement.

Illinois American often will take the opportunity to replace water mains when the city replaces sewer lines.

Second phase may begin next week

The next phase includes new sidewalks, curbs, street lights and pavement from Sixth to 12th streets. This streetscape work is designed to replicate the streetscape project completed in downtown Belleville about 10 years ago.

Hank’s Excavating & Landscaping Inc. of Belleville received a contract of about $1.95 million for this work, which is scheduled to be finished before Art on the Square in May. The city received a $1 million federal grant for this phase of the project.

Also, the city will give about $160,000 to Gonzalez Cos. LLC of Belleville to provide engineering services for this phase.

Eckert said this contract would be needed even if former City Engineer Tim Gregowicz was still with the city. Gregowicz resigned from the city last week to take a position with Town and Country, Missouri.

No contract for third phase

Contracts have not been let for the streetscape and sewer separation work from 12th to 17th streets. The cost for this work could bring the total bill for the Main Street renovation to about $5 million.

Cotton said the water utility would be willing to work with the city and put in new water mains if the city installs new sewers as planned in this part of Main Street.

Shopkeepers complain

Andrew Willis, who owns the Platinum Barbershop at 1005 W. Main St., told the City Council this week that all of the roadwork is preventing customers from reaching his shop.

“This construction is ruining my business,” he said. “I don’t know where to turn.”

Pat Bechtoldt, who owns the Forgotten Treasures resale shop at 1012 W. Main St., told the council, “They never notified us when they were going to close the streets or anything. They just did it.”

Bechtold said in an interview that she is selling down her merchandise and plans to sell her building. She noted that the decision to close her store was not directly related to the construction project.

“I can’t disagree with you and I certainly sympathize with your concerns,” Eckert told Willis and Bechtoldt.

West Main repairs.JPG
The first phase of the West Main Street improvement project in Belleville is nearly complete. New sewer and water lines have been installed from Sixth to 12th streets. Mike Koziatek

Eckert said he has met with representatives from Hank’s Excavating and asked them to keep Main Street shopkeepers informed about their work.

“I told them that merchants along this area have really struggled,” he said. “They’ve assured me that they’re going to do everything in their power to communicate with you all.

“I really think it’s going to get smoother but I can’t tell you it’s going to be totally perfect because it’s construction.”


Why did we report this story?

We first wrote about this project last year and wanted to give BND readers an update on how much money is being spent and when the work will be finished.

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Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.