Be careful if you're walking or driving in downtown Lexington Monday morning as crews start blasting for construction of the long-waited CentrePointe project.
The first blast will be detonated at 10 a.m. in the CentrePointe block bounded by Main, Vine, Upper and Limestone streets.
To ensure safety, Lexington police plan to halt all vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the four streets around the construction site, starting about five minutes before the blast. A warning horn — required by state law — will be blown before the blast, with an all-clear sounded afterward.
Traffic will resume about five minutes after the detonation, so the total interruption should be about 10 minutes, police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said.
After Monday morning's blast, there will be another at 10 a.m. Tuesday before work halts while the 2014 KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament is in town. Blasting will resume March 24, with one detonation planned per day for a number of weeks, according to city officials.
"From what we've been told, these will be small, controlled explosions," said Jonathan Hollinger, senior administrative officer with the Lexington Division of Planning, Preservation and Development. "There's not going to be flying rocks and things like that."
If anything does fly, Liza Betz could be in the line of fire. Her Failte Irish Imports shop is just across South Upper Street from CentrePointe. But Betz says she's confident, even though the first blast will be on St. Patrick's Day.
"Right now they're putting a machine outside that will monitor the vibrations against buildings on this side of the street," she said Friday. "I think we'll be all right. But I just don't want people to get scared about coming downtown."
Most of the blasts will happen weekdays, but some probably also will take place on Saturdays, Hollinger said.
Dudley Webb, whose firm, Webb Companies, is developing CentrePointe, estimated that it could take about 60 days to complete the blasting and remove the resulting rock and debris from the site. The blasting is to prepare the way for construction of a 700-car underground parking garage at CentrePointe.
If things go as planned, however, most people probably won't notice the explosions, according to Webb.
Work crews will cover explosive charges with a layer of soil, then cover that with heavy matting before each blast, he said. That's to reduce noise and ensure that no rocks or other debris will be blown into the air.
The blasts "will be more like a thump" than a roar, Webb said.
Similar blasting procedures were used downtown without problems for construction of the Hilton Inn Lexington and the Lexington Financial Center, he noted.
Meanwhile, officials say extensive steps have been taken to keep the blasting safe.
The Lexington Division of Police conducted a test run of its blasting traffic control plans on March 9 to make sure they're ready.
The Urban County Division of Water Quality has checked storm and sanitary lines adjacent to the site, and concluded that they shouldn't be harmed by the blasting, city spokesman Mark York said.
In Frankfort, state officials have issued a permit for Precision Blasting, the Georgia company that will do the blasting. The Kentucky Explosives and Blasting Branch has approved a blasting plan for the project, and Precision Blasting has retained an outside firm to do seismographic monitoring of the detonations, state officials said. Inspectors will check the site weekly and more often if needed, according to the state.
Kentucky American Water Co. has taken some water lines and hydrants out of service adjacent to the blast area, spokeswoman Susan Lancho said. That will not affect water supplies to customers in the immediate area, she said.
Later, the water company will start installing improved new lines to serve the CentrePointe development when it's completed, she said.
A text-message alert system also has been set up for downtown residents and regular visitors who want a personal warning whenever blasts are going off. You can sign up by texting the word BLASTING to 46786.
As of late last week, 408 people had signed up. But Hollinger said there may be more after Monday's blast.
The Webb Companies announced plans for CentrePointe in 2008, and 14 buildings at Main and South Limestone were demolished to make room for it.
But the project then ground to a halt because of uncertain funding. The site has remained empty for most of the time since, sown in grass and used for various special events. Plans for CentrePointe went through several re-designs.
But things started going again in mid-December with initial site preparation work. The blasting starting this week is to carry the project forward.
Webb said he's thrilled that CentrePointe is finally starting to take shape.
"After waiting as long as we have, it's very gratifying," he said. "During most of the last four or five years nothing was happening.
"It was a long wait. But it's going to be a better project for that."