BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Mother Nature held back the rain just long enough for downtown motorists to regain use of Pine and State streets, but they'll lose a section of Union Street to through-traffic for up to a month.
Construction crews laid the first course of asphalt on Pine and State streets on Tuesday as daytime rain fell on Lake Michigan rather than downtown Traverse City.
Now that State Street is open, the city plans to close the southern half of the Union Street and State Street intersection today.
The northern half of the intersection will remain open to divert southbound Union Street traffic and allow traffic on State Street to travel east.
Rain already put the project slightly behind schedule. City Engineer Tim Lodge faced a quandary if rain had prevented paving work on Tuesday.
"If the weather doesn't cooperate, I don't know what we are going to do," Lodge said Monday.
Lodge initially considered reopening Pine and State streets as a dirt road instead of having State, Pine and Union streets all closed at the same time.
"We want to keep the ability to circulate downtown," he said. "We don't want to trap people."
More rain the rest of this week shouldn't cause additional delays, said Dave Green, assistant city engineer.
"They'll begin tearing up the asphalt today," Green said. "Rain for the next seven or eight days won't be a problem."
The city will pour concrete for the new intersection and expects reconstruction of both halves to take 24 days.
Work on the southern half will take up to 14 days because the city will install a large vault for access to underground electric utilities. Northbound through-traffic on Union Street will be diverted at Eighth Street. Local access traffic will still be allowed up to the Post Office.
City officials advise motorists to avoid the intersection if possible to reduce congestion.
Once the concrete on the southern half cures, crews will flip operations and begin work on the north side, a 10-day job. When the intersection opens crews will apply the final top coat of asphalt to State and Pine streets, a one-to-two day operation.