City begins updating transportation plan

The community is invited to a public hearing during the Aug. 20 Renton City Council meeting.

On Aug. 20, Renton City Council will hold a public hearing for the annual updates to the Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program for 2019-2024.

The new plan includes four major projects that will begin in 2019.

One project that has an open house Sept. 4 will be TIP 26 that converts Williams Avenue South and Wells Avenue South into two-way traffic streets. The $11.9 million project is mostly funded by grants, transportation director Jim Seitz said. According to the updated project documents, there’s $3.4 million undetermined funding for the 2020 portion of the project.

The project will look similar to the 2nd and Main street conversions. The two way streets slow down traffic in the downtown area, make it easier to access downtown businesses and tighten intersections so crosswalks are easier for pedestrians and more accessible, Seitz said.

Renton’s Deputy Public Affairs Administrator, Preeti Shridhar, said projects like this help prevent downtown from becoming a place just passed-through by commuters, continuing work to make the downtown area a destination using intentional planning.

Other projects mentioned in the update involve federal ADA regulations to help Renton offer barrier-free city life, Seitz said.

Another topic is pavement and walkways, where annexation means inherited King County sidewalks will be in need of major improvements or maintenance from the city, including TIP 16 which addresses Duvall Avenue Northeast roadway improvements.

“We’re going to be totally reconstructing the road, the pavement conditions are very bad,” Seitz said. “It’s probably one of the worst roads we have because of pavement conditions.”

Seitz also mentioned sidewalk work is one of the biggest requests they get from the public for improvements.

Funding in general gets more uncertain over time, since the six-year program describes big projects in the future, the city can prepare to apply for more funding. The six year plan shows an increase in expenditures each year, which Seitz said is because it’s projecting unfunded projects.

They have also added an interactive online map where residents can see exact streets that will be under construction, and additional information.

The program is the connector of dots for all city planning, said transportation planning and programming manager for public works Vangie Ann Garcia. It not only offers infrastructure for projects that emerge from Renton’s Civic Core plan, but allows the city to prepare for large future projects so they can start requesting grants.

While some grants are available the next year, some take several years before the money can be used, Seitz said.

“A large part of our funding wouldn’t have happened without state funding, and they’re very competitive,” Seitz said. “The more planning you do ahead of time, the more prepared you are for telling your story to funding agencies.”

Shridhar said the thoroughness of the Renton transportation group is what makes winning these highly competitive awards possible.

The updates also reflect a collection of values and different work done by many parts of the city, since departments work closely together and also utilize community engagement.

“We’re not going there, digging up the streets, then going back five years later and digging it up again. That’s not in conformity with what the community is asking,” Shridhar said.

“One thing I’ve been saying in general is if you look at a pattern of all the projects, we have an opportunity in Renton because of the situation, location, and what’s happening in the region, that all major trails, freight routes, they all converge in Renton,” Garcia said.

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