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Here we go again: Businesses navigating Snoqualmie’s downtown construction, Phase 2
After a hot, busy Saturday with Thomas the Tank Engine, the grown-ups were navigating their way along the road construction tape and finding Sigillo Cellars.
“Some parents were definitely ready for a little wine,” said Vicki Curnutt, tasting room manager at Sigillo tasting room.
The Northwest Railway Museum’s big family excursion gave downtown Snoqualmie businesses a much-needed business boost, right before road construction goes into full swing.
The second phase of the city’s Downtown Infrastructure Improvement Project is now underway.
Four years ago, Snoqualmie experienced phase one. From March 29 to November 18, 2010, contractors remade Falls Avenue, and the north side of Railroad from King to River Streets. Construction came during the height of summer, and downtown businesses briefly endured torn-up streets and sidewalks.
Now, the south side of Railroad Avenue gets its turn, in a $4.2 million project that transforms downtown into a place that’s easier for visitors to walk and park.
An 18-foot-wide concrete path, complete with benches, landscaping, lights and a handrail, is being installed between King Street and Fir Street.
“It’s going to be more pedestrian-oriented,” said Snoqualmie Public Works Director Dan Marcinko. “And it’s going to look great when we’re done.”
Besides the boardwalk, the biggest change is in parking. The front-angle parking in front of the railroad museum is being replaced by reverse-angle (back-in) parking from River Street all the way to Fir. The tall trees in front of the museum are being preserved.
The bus stop at Railroad Avenue is being moved, from King Street to Newton Avenue. Under and above ground, construction crews will upgrade streets, sidewalks, streetlights and pipes from Fir Street to River Street. New gutters, irrigation, landscaping and street benches are part of the mix.
Contractor C.A. Carey has 180 working days to complete the work by May of 2015. Work in the main downtown block is expected to be done by October. Carey was not allowed to work during Thomas or Railroad Days.
Grants and input
To pay for the work, the city asked for and got $3.4million from Washington State Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program, Puget Sound Regional Council, U.S. Housing and Urban Development, State Transportation Improvement Board and WSDOT.
The city wanted to include Railroad from Newton to Northern Street, but the funding fell through. Future phases will redo Railroad Avenue and its sidewalks from Fir Street to Snoqualmie Parkway and River Street to Meadowbrook Way.
“What we’d ultimately like to do is get the Falls and the downtown connected,” Marcinko said.
Construction began on June 16. In the first few weeks, contractors surveyed, found and flagged a high-pressure gas main in the work area.
“That’s the sort of thing the general public doesn’t see,” said Marcinko. “It’s very vital work.”
The city will meet with business and property owners twice monthly this summer. Marcinko, project engineer Kamal Mahmoud and other city staff plan to make the rounds, visit businesses and see how the project is affecting people. The next public update meeting is planned for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6.
Marcinko stresses that plenty of downtown parking is still available—at the King Street lot, on Falls and River streets, and at times at the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church.
“It’s change,” he said. “Change doesn’t always sit well with people. But once it settles in and things start to progress, people will notice the difference.
“We’re putting millions into the downtown,” he added. “It’s really going to enhance our downtown, and be quite the attraction.”
Phase two will be harder on drivers and businesses than phase one. In the first phase, travel lanes on Railroad Avenue didn’t go away. This time, they will.
In this phase, 202 will see one-lane shutdowns outside of rush hours in morning and afternoon, starting as early as this week, as utility work ramps up.
State Route 202 is a central corridor through town, and most heavy trucks won’t be able to detour on side streets, though smaller vehicles will.
“Just be respectful of local residents in the neighborhoods, and children,” advises Marcinko, who is looking firmly ahead.
When it’s all done, “we’re going to have a beautiful product for our businesses downtown, and the visitors that come,” he said.
Some businesses have gone through this before. Some, like Sigillo, are newcomers to downtown,
“The whole project is going to be a positive, without a doubt,” says Curnutt. “But it is definitely having an impact on the businesses.”
There’s been some confusion, says Curnutt, especially among tourists and visitors, about where to park. Better signage is in order, she says.
She supports mandating two-hour parking on Falls Avenue, to free up parking for customers.
The biggest thing is to just support each other through this crisis,” says Curnutt. “It would be great if everyone who works here parks at King Street or the church, and left this parking for customers.” Some businesses, like Sigillo, have a back door on Falls for any customers who want to cut through.
At Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory, owner Wes Sorstokke has been pleasantly surprised: “I don’t think we’re down very much” during the first two weeks, he said.
Sorstokke was among business owners who weathered weeks of road construction during Phase 1.
“Nothing you can do about it. I told everybody, park down there, don’t complain about it, keep a positive attitude.”
Regulars have been loyal, parking a block away and walking in.
“Just look at the artist renderings, and look forward to the end,” Sorstokke advises fellow business owners.
• Find project information at ci.snoqualmie.wa.us.
An artists’ rendering shows the raised wooden boardwalk fronting the Northwest Railway Museum, kiosks and reverse-angle parking, all coming as part of Snoqualmie’s downtown infrastructure improvement project’s second phase, now underway.
Workers with C.A. Carey install storm sewers at Railroad Avenue and River Street in downtown Snoqualmie.