Chavenelle Road: Looking back and forward

Chavenelle Road is home to more than 25 industries, one nonprofit organization and the John G. Bergfeld Recreation Area in the Dubuque Industrial Center West.

More than 4,100 people are employed by businesses located on this road.

Reconstruction for the heavily used road

Turning 40 years old this year, Chavenelle Road — between Radford Road and the Northwest Arterial (Iowa 32) — was constructed in 1981 as part of the Dubuque Industrial Center development.

To accommodate the anticipated large truck traffic volumes, a four-lane road section was selected as the original roadway to the industrial center.

Now, the 8-inch thick concrete pavement has served out its life and requires replacement.

The new pavement is planned to be designed to accommodate greater loads than the current pavement can handle based on expected loads and growth in the industrial park.

The reconstruction also will solve freeze-thaw issues during the winter months because of wet subsurface conditions.

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“This is a full reconstruction, which includes removing all of the old concrete pavement, reconstructing the tops of the storm water intakes, installing pavement sub-drains, constructing a new stone sub-base and installation of new pavement,” said Jon Dienst, civil engineer II for the City of Dubuque engineering department.

A distance of approximately 4,100 feet, or less than one mile of Chavenelle Road between Radford Road and the Arterial will be reconstructed. Chavenelle Road is approximately 2.34 miles from the Arterial to Seippel Road.

Enhancements will be made, including the addition of a sidewalk on the south side of the road.

A 10-foot wide hike/bike trail is scheduled to be added along the north side of the road in 2022 after the road project has been completed. No businesses will be relocated.

Bids which requested two paving alternatives, either concrete or asphalt pavement, for the reconstruction project were due on July 8, 2021.

Dienst anticipates that construction will begin in late July or early August, with a Nov. 30 completion date to allow for staging and pavement curing.

Chavenelle Road will remain open to traffic during the reconstruction. The project will be phased so access to driveways and the roadway is maintained. Because the reconstruction will be done on half the road at a time, traffic will be one-way only during construction.

“We are proposing one-way traffic from Radford Road toward the NW Arterial during the duration of the reconstruction. The bid-winning contractor may propose a different traffic control plan than what is proposed in the bid,” Dienst said.

Who is Chavenelle?

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In 1981, the city named Chavenelle Road in Gilbert (Gil) Chavenelle’s honor. Chavenelle served as the Dubuque City Manager for 19 years from June 14, 1960 until his retirement effective June 30, 1979.

Some of Gil Chavenelle’s many achievements as city manager include the preparation of a 50-page booklet outlining major municipal problems. Chavenelle believed that the police station should be separate from the city-county building and contain court facilities.

He also believed a new city garage with space for all public works except the water department, was needed. He supported a city dump as an alternative to City Island, large enough to provide service for 15 years with substitute dump locations in the northwest, southeast and western sections of Dubuque.

Chavenelle supported a civic center containing a museum, art center, women’s club area and a small auditorium as an alternative to a museum. Instead of remodeling the Ninth Street fire station, which Chavenelle thought was too small, he suggested that a new site be considered.

During Chavenelle’s tenure as city manager, he oversaw the development of countless municipal services including 20-year plan for solid waste and sewage disposal, construction of one of the first secondary sewage treatment plants on the upper Mississippi River, 20-year plans for water service extensions and improvements, a 20-year transportation plan and revision of the 1934 zoning codes.

Construction of a new municipal public works garage, central fire headquarters and west side fire house, establishment of a Human Rights Commission, founding of a Low Rent Housing Commission, revision of the municipal budget system from departmental or program budgets, updated municipal codes, construction of the first two city parking ramps and the start of construction on a floodwall all occurred during Chavenelle’s years of service.

Chavenelle’s financial stewardship led to the maintenance of balanced budgets in the city while maintaining the highest rating for bonds issued by the city. He was presented with the 1971 First Citizen award by the Telegraph Herald. The Detroit native passed away in Dubuque on Feb. 26, 1988.

A proud daughter

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Gail Chavenelle, 76, remembers attending the road dedication to honor her dad while in her mid-30s.

“Dad was very humble. He led by showing how wonderful other people were, instead of getting the attention for himself,” Gail said.

During the road dedication, her dad was presented with a copy of the Chavenelle Road street sign, which Gail has.

“I’m proud to travel down the road named for my dad. I work with many of the businesses on the road including Giese Manufacturing, and don’t have to spell my last name for any of them.”

Chavenelle Road Community

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In addition to the road being named after her dad, Gail Chavenelle has another personal connection to the road.

As a metal artist and owner of Chavenelle Studio Metalworks, Gail created dog and cat metal statues for the entrance of the Dubuque Regional Humane Society, the only nonprofit organization located on Chavenelle Road. The statues were installed at the DRHS in August 2020.

“They are wonderful pieces of art. We had a contest on Facebook to name the statues. The winning names were Catalina and Barkley,” said Tonya Millard, executive director of the DRHS.

“The statues greet everyone coming to the shelter and adoptive families enjoy having their pictures taken with Catalina and Barkley,” Millard added.

The DRHS has been located on Chavenelle Road for eight years, having relocated from North Crescent Ridge when the organization outgrew their previous building.

“Chavenelle Road seems to be its own community out here. The DRHS is often asked to bring animals to the different businesses along Chavenelle. When a business sponsors a food truck for lunchtime, other businesses on the road are invited to come on over,” Millard said. “We enjoy being in the neighborhood.”

Giese Manufacturing has been located on Chavenelle Road since 2002. Originally the business which is a full-service metal fabrication company was located on Elm Street.

“We have quite a few deliveries to the Quad Cities and since they opened up the Southwest Arterial it saves our drivers about 40 to 60 minutes of drive time,” said Charles Giese, president of Giese Manufacturing. “We like the idea of being located with other businesses here in the industrial center.”

Recreation Area

The John G. Bergfeld Recreation Area is a family and pet-friendly park located at 7600 Chavenelle Road. The 30-acre park includes a pavilion picnic shelter, fishing pond with two fishing jetties, playground equipment and restroom facilities. A short walking trail goes around the pond. It also connects to a longer trail.

Benefits to the local economy

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“Infrastructure is important for the economic and sustained growth of Dubuque,” Daniel McDonald said. “As Dubuque businesses compete in the free-market, efficient transportation and infrastructure is key. The Chavenelle Road project will help develop a modern, efficient approach and access to the Dubuque Industrial Center.”

McDonald, vice president of existing business for the Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said that enhancements to Chavenelle Road will help companies operate more efficiently, will further protect existing jobs and make the road more favorable for consideration of possible growth or expansion in the future.

“This needed improvement will help businesses reduce annual truck and vehicle maintenance costs, and thus, help businesses lower overall transportation costs,” McDonald said.

In addition to the road reconstruction, city water mains will be replaced.