Rainier Avenue South project ready to open ahead of schedule

The ribbon cutting for the Rainier Avenue South is set for 10 a.m. Monday. - Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter
The ribbon cutting for the Rainier Avenue South is set for 10 a.m. Monday.
— image credit: Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter

Workers this week were putting the finishing touches on the Rainier Avenue South project with a scheduled ribbon-cutting set for Dec. 9, well ahead of the initially projected completion date of Spring 2014.

The $42 million project was designed to improve transit mobility, upgrade traffic safety, enhance pedestrian safety, expand business access and add welcoming art displays creating a “gateway” to the City of Renton.

Beginning in April 2012, Johansen Excavating, Inc., the contractor on the project, improvements to Rainier Avenue South include eliminating left-hand turn lanes, adding new north and southbound lanes to increase transit mobility and business access, building wider sidewalks and installing planter strips and upgraded lighting.

Underground infrastructure was also relocated or installed including installation of the joint utility trench (JUT) that holds utilities like electricity, gas and telecommunications services along the west side of the road.

They also upgraded stormwater, sewer and waterline infrastructure.

The project was Phase 3 of a larger construction project to improve access through Rainier Avenue South, with phases 1 and 2 being completed in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

Rainier Avenue South from South Grady Way to South 2nd Street is a high-traffic commercial corridor used as a major thoroughfare through the City of Renton that was often congested with intersection back-ups that decreased vehicle and transit mobility.

An estimated 50,000 cars use the roadway every day.

Pedestrian safety was also a concern. To address it, wide 8-foot sidewalks were added, along with planter strips with vegetation and upgraded street lighting.

The new Rainier Avenue South is a boulevard with a median separating the north- and southbound lanes and removing the left turn lane in the middle, sometimes referred to as a “suicide lane.”

Exits from most businesses are now right turn only, but there are U-turn routes available.

In addition to the road work, several new pieces of public art have been added to the road way, including a large piece at the corner of Grady and Rainier.

The artwork, by Seattle artists Benson Shaw, features a welcome sign, a tile mosaic and series of 15 globes patterned in a wave atop metal poles.

Due to an accident this fall, the final installation of the globes may take place after the official ribbon-cutting.

Along with the globes, additional public art projects have been installed at the northern end of the project as well.

The Rainier Avenue South Project is a funding collaboration of the City of Renton, Sound Transit, U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Transportation Improvement Board, Washington State Department of Transportation, Puget Sound Regional Council and the Department of Commerce Public Works Board.

An official ribbon cutting on the project, a full three months ahead of schedule, is set for 10 a.m. Monday at South Third Place and Rainier Avenue South at the McLendon Hardware store parking lot.

Featured guest speakers include Mayor Denis Law, Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl, State House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn, and Transportation Improvement Board Director Stevan Gorcester.

For more information, visit

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