Summer in the city; street work almost done

By Ruth Longoria

Relief is only a few short detours away for those having a hard time getting around the Island in recent months due to the deluge of street improvement projects.

As summer winds down, Islanders should see the completion of a few projects, including the Island Crest Way roadwork, which is expected to be finished by Labor Day. Some other projects will get started in September, but all of the Island street projects should be completed by the end of October, said Clint Morris, city street engineer.

``We still have quite a bit going on, but, we're hoping for a dry, late summer and early fall, so we can wrap it all up,'' Morris said.

Several street projects have been underway the past few months as part of the city's six year transportation improvement plan, approved by the City Council earlier this year. The $841,000 Island Crest Way resurfacing project between S.E. 30th and S.E. 40th streets is the largest project within this year's portion of the plan. As that project wraps up, on time and within budget, the $270,000 project for S.E. 24th Street -- near the new community center -- between 78th Avenue S.E. and 84th Avenue S.E., will begin.

The 24th Street project, which will widen the roadway to two 10-foot-wide traffic lanes and two four-foot side-paved shoulders on each side of the road for bicyclists and pedestrians, will be partially funded by Sound Transit.

The regional mass transportation organization is expected to throw in about $30,000 toward the bike path portion of the project, City Manager Rich Conrad said during a previous City Council meeting. This despite the fact Sound Transit originally said it would not fund the project, since the City Council voted in March to route bicyclists onto 24th Street, rather than Sound Transit's design suggestion of bicycle paths on North Mercer, near the Park & Ride.

Also planned to conclude in October is the residential street overlay project on S.E. 32nd Street, in the Groveland Park area and the south end of First Hill, Morris said. In addition to the street improvement projects, a water main project from S.E. 40th Street to the 4300 block of East Mercer Way also is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Morris said his department builds in a 10- to 15-percent cushion to the budget, above construction estimates, to cover unexpected costs on projects so most projects are able to be completed within budget. However, since several of the projects have yet to begin, and the water main project is not handled by Morris, he can't say whether all of the other projects will come in under, within, or over budget.

``Most of the time the cushion takes care of anything so I'm not worried,'' he said.

One project planned this fall might come as a surprise to some residents, said City Councilman Dan Grausz.

``A lot of people don't realize we're going to have a shoulder added to East Mercer Way between the Jewish Community Center and 45th Street,'' Grausz said.

That project will begin next month and finish in October, Morris said.

During the April City Council retreat, Grausz suggested the council add an extra $200,000 of then-unappropriated funds to pay for roadside shoulder development along the Mercer Ways. The addition of shoulders is expected to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

``This is clearly a necessary project,'' Grausz said. ``Adding shoulders is one of the nuts-and-bolts, basic projects that has a significant impact on the community and the Island.''

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