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Business owners skeptical of new North Bend sidewalks

Eyeing commuter-hour traffic, Curt Singer, a North Bend resident, waits for a friend Tuesday afternoon, July 20, at the Pour House patio. Singer says traffic revisions in downtown North Bend are slowing him and other drivers. “I can’t make my free right hand turn at the corner. Now the traffic backs all the way down here,” he said. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Eyeing commuter-hour traffic, Curt Singer, a North Bend resident, waits for a friend Tuesday afternoon, July 20, at the Pour House patio. Singer says traffic revisions in downtown North Bend are slowing him and other drivers. “I can’t make my free right hand turn at the corner. Now the traffic backs all the way down here,” he said.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Making his way to the Pour House Tavern, North Bend resident Doc Bagby was surprised by the long queue of cars stretching west on Bendigo Boulevard.

Bagby didn’t mince words over what he thinks of the traffic back-up and where it originates: new bulb-out corners, meant to make the downtown stretch safer and more attractive to pedestrians, that eliminated free right-hand turn lanes at several intersections.

Whoever approved the bulb-outs, Bagby said, “has done nothing but screw up traffic in this town forever.”

The wider sidewalks are one piece of the $1.7 million North Bend Park and Ride project, which puts two transit parking lots in downtown North Bend. The main lot is south of North Bend Way, while a handicapped lot is next to the Pour House. A retaining wall is rising at the south lot. Storm drains on both transit lots will accompany the completed curbs, gutters and sidewalks along North Bend Way east of Sydney Avenue.

Wide street

As sidewalk work wrapped up along North Bend Way, business owners described the end result as a bit wider than they expected.

“I’ve been joking around with the city, saying they might as well put a basketball court out there,” said Birches Habitat owner Steve Wray. “It’s huge. It’s a major highway—you took away a lot of the turn lanes and there’s no room for trucks to turn.”

The sidewalks between Bendigo Boulevard and Sydney Avenue are 12 feet wide, which is the new city standard in a downtown area.

“We want to match the rest of downtown with everything: the bulb-out and sidewalks, with the look and appearance, and (with) pedestrians being number one,” said Tom Mohr, an assistant city engineer for North Bend Public Works.

Paying for it

While Bagby and other downtown regulars and business owners were surprised by the curb bulbs, North Bend Public Works Director Ron Garrow said the lanes were never official.

“There was no formal right turn lane,” Garrow said. “People were using the parking corridor as a right turn.”

Besides the traffic change, business owners pointed to other unwanted side effects of construction: loss of parking during the project, unpaved driveways and deep holes left uncovered.

Sawan Thai owner Jiri Tresl is still unhappy with his finished sidewalk, as it is sloped, taking away the opportunity to provide outdoor seating.

“When it starts to rain, I’m hoping it won’t start coming into the building,” he said. “We wanted room for outdoor tables like the other businesses, but now that it’s sloped, we can’t.”

Mohr said the sloping entry way is a quick fix.

While many thresholds of some restaurants’ doorways along North Bend Way are lower than the top of the curbs, Mohr said it is hard to get water to flow from the sidewalk to the curb. Workers will install a trench drain to catch the storm water before it reaches Tresl’s doorway.

Pour House owners, Greg Kowalsky and Dottie Trombley decided to sell a portion of their parking lot to the city for the handicapped transit parking lot. The sale helped their business financially, but they’re also paying for construction in other ways.

“We’re down $40,000 for the last two months,” Kowalsky said. “All of it’s on the construction.”

“It’s affecting our business bad,” Trombley added. “Our lunches have been the worst they’ve ever been, especially the first month they were here, because they blocked us off so no one could get in at all.”

Even with the completion of the sidewalk in front of the tavern, the narrow parking lot they have left leaves little room for driver error.

“I’ve tried to tell them over and over again that their curb will be destroyed by pick-up trucks in our lot,” Kowalsky said. “They’re moving the driveway back another three or four feet and putting in a curb and landscape strip.”

Kowalsky and Trombley were told that their lot will be fixed as soon as possible, but they’ve been waiting for weeks.

With the Park and Ride lots still under construction, the contractors have 56 working days left to finish up the contract. The job is expected to wrap up toward the end of September.

“The north lot is done. They just need to stripe and finish the curbs,” Mohr said. “The south (project team) needs to install the water quality vaults, which catch the storm water that would be going into the river.”

Once the vaults are completed the rest of the south lot will be finished.

“They have plenty of time to finish the work,” Mohr said.

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