By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF – A half-mile-long construction project will have a major impact on St. John Vianney Parish starting this week.
Design work for the $970,000 project on 18th Street from New Lexington Drive to Navajo Drive began in December, said Brian Fries, assistant city engineer for the city of Bettendorf. St. John Vianney is located on 18th Street.
Work was expected to begin this week, weather pending, and conclude by mid-September. NJ Miller is the project’s contractor.
The project has led to cancellation of Vacation Bible School that attracts more than 175 youths, plus another 100 high school and adult volunteers, said Father Robert McAleer, St. John Vianney’s pastor.
He said he knew the project was coming, but didn’t find out until April how much it would affect parish access.
Fries said the project includes widening from 44 feet to 47 feet from New Lexington Drive to St. John’s Court and full-width reconstruction and widening to 47 feet from St. Johns Court to Navajo Drive. New storm sewers will be installed on the east side of 18th Street from St. John Vianney to East Dale Court and from Eastberry Court to Navajo Drive.
The road, 18th Street, is two lanes in each directions and the decision was made to leave it that way, Fries said. There had been talk of installing bike lanes, reducing vehicular traffic to one lane in each direction and installation of a middle turn lane.
Fr. McAleer said during construction traffic on 18th Street will be single-lane, northbound only. When people leave St. John Vianney they will need to exit north and take the detour to travel southbound.
Fries said the city decided to run northbound traffic in one direction after careful consideration. “Major factors for this decision included a reduction in time of the construction schedule, increased safety for the motorists and construction crew, and cost savings for the contract.”
“It’s going to be very difficult to get here,” Fr. McAleer said. But he said the city and contractor have worked with the parish to ensure access at all times.
“It was an awful decision to cancel Vacation Bible School,” the pastor said. “But we decided to make the decision early so our parishioners can attend other Vacation Bible schools this summer.”
He also is concerned about how the construction will affect St. John Vianney’s preschool, which has drop-off in the morning and 11:30 a.m. pickup through mid-May for its 54 students. A plan is in place, and he hopes all goes smoothly, especially during the first week of construction.
“We have no other entrances or exits other than 18th Street,” he said.
At present, daily Masses at 7:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. will be held as usual. As construction continues and Father James Vrba becomes the new pastor in July, changes could be made, Fr. McAleer said.
Fourteen weddings are scheduled to take place at the church during the construction period. Families have been notified to give specific instructions to guests on how to get to the church.
Plans have not been made yet regarding the annual parish picnic, which is celebrated close to the Aug. 4 feast date of St. John Vianney.
Even though construction crews will not be working on Sundays, Fr. McAleer anticipates fewer people attending weekend Masses and lower income. “We do have less revenue in the summer and fewer attending, but I think it will be down even more. But I anticipate we’ll catch up in the fall.”
Fewer meetings are scheduled during the summer, so nothing else has been canceled at this point. “This will be a difficult time for us at St. John Vianney,” Fr. McAleer said.
Fries and Fr. McAleer remind those taking 18th Street to be patient during the project. “This will be a short-term inconvenience to the public with a long-term benefit to all motorists when the work is complete,” Fries said.