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Tree work heralds Old Woodward construction

Tree removal work is slated to begin Monday, February 26, on Old Woodward, in order to begin the streetscaping design work for the Old Woodward construction project in downtown Birmingham, which will close the street to all traffic from Willits to Brown in late March.

The planned road construction project will shut down the center of downtown Birmingham along Old Woodward from Willits to Brown, and Maple to just past the store Suhm-Thing and part of E. Maple. The road requires a complete reconstruction, similar to Pierce Street and Hamilton in previous years, in that these areas have some of the oldest water and sewer lines in Birmingham, as well as a streetscape that is on a different grade than the road. Much of this current infrastructure was installed in the 1940s and has exceeded its useful life – with some sewers dating back to the 1890s.

Besides improvements, a center median will be added to Old Woodward, but city commissioners said it will be smaller than the medians on N. Old Woodward between Oak and Willits in order to allow larger trucks better access in the downtown area.

In order to keep closure time to a minimum, the city said some preparatory work is beginning sooner while the street remains open.

As part of the new streetscape design, larger tree wells with planting beds are going to be installed throughout the project area. Each new tree will have an enlarged area of organic soil installed around it to allow the new tree to grow healthier and faster than it was able to in the past, staff said, and in order to make space for the new streetscape design, all of the existing street trees must be removed.

Birmingham's forestry contractor will begin tree removal, weather permitting, on Monday, February 26, with work beginning each weekday at 7 a.m. Sections of parking meters on one side of the street at a time will be closed off. The contractor will use the parking area to remove the limbs of each tree, with staff posted at the sidewalk to work with the public needing to get through. Overhead work will stop as needed to permit pedestrians to have access to their destination.

It is anticipated that work in the area will be cleaned up each day at approximately 11 a.m., with parking meters returned to normal operation. Stumps will be left in place until the street is closed later in March.

It is anticipated that the work will take about two weeks, based on five days per week. If the weather is poor, work will be cancelled that day for safety reasons, and rescheduled for the following day.

The approved city contract for the Old Woodward reconstruction is for Angelo Iafrate Construction Co. for $7 million, and calls for 125 days of work with a targeted substantial completion date of July 27.

During the Old Woodward reconstruction, most alleys will remain open to through traffic, other than the Maple entrance to the Willits Alley. E. Merrill Street and Hamilton will both be dead end streets for the duration of the construction period.

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