A flagman halts traffic during the repaving of Harshaw Road this fall. Residents experienced delays of up to 20 minutes during this construction. Photo by Robert Gay

Patagonians can once again access their local post office relatively free of the ubiquitous cones, signs, machines and noise in evidence during the recent repaving of Taylor and McKeown Avenues and Harshaw Road. More inconvenience may be in store in the new year, however, as the 200 block of McKeown is slated to get a substantial facelift this spring when the second phase of the town’s two-phase road project gets underway. 

While changes are likely between now and the proposed May 1 start date, Phase II plans currently call for parking, sidewalk, bike path and helipad improvements. 

The north side of McKeown will be the focus of most of the additional work as the repaving of McKeown from Third Avenue to Taylor will permit marked head-in parking spaces to be installed where only undefined parking space currently exists. Whether the parking configuration will be straight in or slanted remains to be determined, but in either case, a new concrete sidewalk will flank the new parking area and run the full length of the block between Third Avenue and Taylor, will curve around on the west end of the block and continue to the intersection of Third and SR 82 (Naugle Avenue). 

Crosswalks will be marked at the newly paved intersections to allow pedestrians to safely cross to the post office, town hall and other nearby destinations. Wheelchair access to the sidewalk is included in the plan as are designated parking spaces for handicapped individuals. 

The project will also include a designated bike path on the south side of McKeown and the town’s helicopter landing pad will be enlarged, repaved and linked with Third Avenue by a new access driveway.

The $1.6 million project is being financially underwritten entirely by South32. It materialized after South32 approached town officials last January seeking ideas for a community improvement project to support. 

The parties initially focused on reviving a stalled McKeown sidewalk improvement project that had been proposed in 2016. Ultimately, South32 agreed to fund a much larger project including the post office and Taylor Avenue improvements and paving Harshaw Road all the way to the town limit. 

Having agreed on the scope of work, the parties signed a community development agreement setting forth their respective roles. The town then put the project out for competitive bid, which was won by Hunter Contractors. 

Town Manager Ron Robinson commended Hunter for going beyond what was required within the contract. He noted that Hunter extended, without additional compensation, the curbing and paving work at the post office to include the area around the juniper and ash trees. They also paved more of the parking lot than the required twelve inches from the curb. 

Discussions are presently underway with South32 about the possibility of paving the parking area at the Family Health Center.