The city is moving forward with its project to convert Main Avenue South from a one-way to a two-way street, but its initial plan might take a detour.
The work at the key intersection of the project — Main Avenue South and South Second Street — was initially supposed to go through a four-phase plan, totaling 95 days of construction. It was revealed at the March 13 Committee of the Whole meeting that the four phase plan would take 181 days to complete.
The Public Works department came up with an alternative proposal, one that would take less time to complete, however not everyone was thrilled about this proposal.
Instead of a four-phase plan, the alternative solution presented at the meeting was a full closure of the intersection for no more than two months, and closing down all but one westbound lane on Bronson Way South heading to South Second Street.
Bob Hanson, who leads the Transportation Design and Construction section, discussed the details of this new proposal and said that the contractor informed Hanson’s department of the delay two weeks ago after consulting the critical path schedule.
Councilman Ed Prince raised questions at the meeting regarding how the full closure plan will affect businesses and fire station No. 11.
According to Hanson, there will be three signs erected around the construction area to redirect drivers. The signs will also help advertise the businesses in the area by having their logos on them.
However GHY Bikes owner A.J. Johnson isn’t sure his business will thrive with two-month construction.
The 12-year-old bike store, located on 230 Main Ave. S, has already seen a 27 percent dip in sales from summer of 2015 – 2016 due to the apartment complex construction at the intersection, according to Johnson.
The full closure plan also affects the fire station on Mill Avenue, however the city and the fire department were able to come up with favorable solutions. Deputy Chief Roy Gunsolus said it won’t impede response times at all.
“We’ve worked with the traffic department of the city, and I’ve had meetings with construction, and we’ve worked out a plan so it’s going to have very little impact on response because we’re going to be installing GPS activated (opticom) which help us get signals going our direction sooner,” said Gunsolus.
The GPS opticom system activates signals to change based on the position of the apparatus, he explained. The systems will be installed in two weeks, before construction starts.
The city and the fire station were also able to find an alternative route for emergency traffic vehicles.
While the project was set in motion about two years ago, according to Hanson, it wasn’t until two weeks ago, less than a month away before construction was set to begin, that the contractor informed the city that the initial four-phase plan would take more than two weeks. The city informed businesses and the fire department last week.
Johnson said he was notified about the construction last Thursday, March 9, and that if he had known any sooner, he wouldn’t have signed his lease, and instead would have considered moving up to Issaquah or Kirkland.
“I absolutely know that the project needs to get done,” said Prince. “My larger concern is that we’ve also known about it for two years. It seems to me that earlier communication with the business owners and the fire department would have been better last week.”
When asked about the transportation department’s plan in the case of delays or if they had a contingency plan, Hanson replied, “The contractor has indicated 37 (working) days. That’s seven working days less than two months. We’ve figured that’s a safe-enough cushion for any weather delays we might have.”
While discussing the plan at the council meeting, council members voiced their concerns about the plan and its affect on local businesses.
“I am still extremely disappointed from what I’ve seen at the Committee of the Whole today,” said Prince at the meeting. “My hope is that staff will come back to us next week and they will have more worked out, and I won’t have to vote against the resolution.”
Councilman Ryan McIrvin said he was in the same boat and he wanted more feedback the next week.
“I’m on board with everybody else,” said Councilman Randy Corman. “Since it is our intent to ultimately restore a lot of these streets to two-way traffic, and hopefully our future is going to include more work on these intersections, I would like us to be creative in coming up ways to mitigate the impact for the businesses. As we go forward and we start to convert other intersections to two-way, I don’t want the business community to feel like it’s a hard ship imposition and not a benefit. And it seems like we’re at a bad start already.”