Comprehensive Streetscape Plan Envisions Cohesive Downtown
When most people think of Winterset, Iowa, an image of the iconic “covered bridges” that dot the surrounding landscape usually comes to mind. However, the historic downtown region, home to the Madison County Courthouse, is usually a close second.
When the Winterset City Council and the local chamber of commerce approached planners with Snyder & Associates to recommend infrastructure upgrades, discussions mainly centered around improving street lighting, traffic signals, and electrical services in a twelve-block area surrounding the town square. During our team’s data collection efforts of the area’s storm sewer and water service utilities, it quickly became clear that city leaders also had a “wish list” of additional streetscape improvements they wanted our team to tackle.
Mismatched & Outdated Technology Leads to Extensive Makeover
To create a comprehensive streetscape design that met our client’s needs, the Snyder & Associates design team began with an in-depth study of existing conditions. During this time, 14 underground utility vaults and sidewalk openings were investigated, along with current ADA accessibility deficiencies and stormwater management issues. The original mismatched light poles, outdated lighting technology, and traffic signals were also among the streetscape elements slated for improvement.
It was determined that a complete roadway reconstruction, including storm sewer upgrades, would be necessary to repair the problem areas and eliminate ponding and poor drainage in the project area. It was also found that extensive filing and reinforcement measures would need to be taken to strengthen the underground utility vaults and increase the structural integrity of the sidewalks above. New and updated electrical wiring would also be routed through the vaults for the utilities in the area.
Multimodal Accommodations & Improved Aesthetic Appeal
To improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety around the square, the intersection signalization and crosswalks were upgraded. Additionally, mid-block pedestrian crossings were improved to provide safer access to the courthouse. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was at the forefront of all the design efforts and included the installation of sidewalk ramps to increase multimodal accessibility to area businesses. Inspired by the historical character of the downtown area, our designers also achieved their goal of continuing a cohesive aesthetic appeal and theme using decorative street lighting, brick pavement accents, and colorful annual plantings around the square.
Due to a large number of restaurants and retail businesses in the town square, maintaining full access to these establishments during construction was critical. During public engagement sessions, our team discovered that less than a third of these businesses have rear entrances. This resulted in an elaborate construction phasing approach that spread the reconstruction efforts over four years to minimize disruptions to storefront access. Each phase affected only one side of the square at a time, and each construction phase was completed in one season. Along the way, we maintained significant coordination and regular meetings with the city and local business owners to provide progress updates and ensure access needs were met.
The newly rehabilitated streetscape surrounding Winterset’s town square has reestablished the town as a premier destination location for the thousands of visitors that pour into town each year. The updated safety protocols put in place ensure those visitors have the most accommodative and secure amenities available.