PITTSBURG — City officials and a range of community stakeholders held a ribbon cutting Wednesday to mark the near-completion of the $4.1 million South Rouse Street Widening and Trail Project.

Although reconstruction of the road — including removal of existing pavement, installation of a new storm sewer system, curb and gutter work, pavement pouring, constructing new sidewalks and driveways, pavement marking, and creating a new 10-foot wide walking and biking trail — began in April 2018, utility work was going on before that, and planning for the project began years earlier. Construction also took longer than city officials initially hoped it would.

“This year especially, the weather has just been Mother Nature not cooperating in any way, shape or form,” said City of Pittsburg Public Works Director Cameron Alden, adding that Pittsburg received its average annual rainfall by the beginning of August.

The wait has been worth it, however, Alden said.

“It’s an incredible difference,” he said. “I think beforehand we had about a 22-foot wide country-style, you know, county road. So it had the deep ditches, it had a narrower roadway, it had no shoulders for anyone to be able to step off onto, so prior to this project I’d come down here and I’d see folks who were trying to walk or run or jog or anything and they’d literally have to jump into the ditch. Some parts that could be 3 or 4 feet down. That’s not a real safe way to go.”

Alden also thanked those who live in the area where the road work has been ongoing and said he appreciates their patience.

“I am ecstatic, as someone who lives in this area,” said Amy Hite, an early supporter of the project and a former member of the city’s Active Transportation Advisory Board. “The safety for driving, the safety for runners, bikers, walkers, the health benefits, having us connected, somewhere we can easily go out our driveways and hop on the trail and go for a walk, I see neighbors talking to each other, as I drive up and down the street multiple times each day I see people out with strollers, walking their dogs, so it’s being used daily.”

The South Rouse project widened the section of Rouse Street south of Centennial Drive. Crawford County Commissioner Jeremy Johnson attended Wednesday’s ribbon cutting and ceremony and said the infrastructure improvements will benefit both the city and nearby unincorporated areas of the county.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Johnson said. “With the number of people living out this way now and the expansion of the medical availability out this way, it’s a necessary step to try to improve the infrastructure so that it’s able to accommodate those new needs. This has been a long time coming I think and a good step for both Pittsburg and Crawford County.”

The project represented “a phenomenal improvement in our community,” said newly-appointed Pittsburg Mayor Dawn McNay, who was previously board president of the city commission until this week.

“I used to work at Via Christi and drove that road a lot,” McNay said, “and it’s just very gratifying to see that progress and the ability for families in this part of our community that is growing to have access to sidewalks, and families can ride their bikes, and it supports even further growth to the south if that happens.”

City Manager Daron Hall said Ascension Via Christi told him that now that the road has been improved, if there’s ever a problem with the hospital’s helipad, they can now land a helicopter on Rouse.

“It sounds like a joke but I don’t think they were joking,” Hall said. “There’s not a lot of overhead lines. It’s a fantastic road.”

Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson also commented on the project.

“It really shows that Pittsburg is a progressive community in improving the connectivity and the walkability of our community,” Benson said. “It gets people more active and it also makes this stretch of road much safer.”