The road wasn’t always smooth, but more than a decade later, they got there.
On Aug. 31, Carnation officials, joined by state and federal leaders, celebrated the near end of a 12-year, $10 million restoration of Tolt Avenue that they say will revitalize the city’s downtown corridor and allow the city’s central business district to thrive.
Work to improve Tolt Avenue — Carnation’s main street and part of State Route 203 — began back in 2010. The goal was to drive more customers to the city’s downtown businesses, bring more businesses to town and make the city more livable. The project required a total of 13 grants to fund the $10 million worth of improvements to road, sidewalks, curbs, gutters and stormwater utilities, and required no funds from city taxpayers.
“Being here in 2022 and seeing the completion of this project is amazing,” Carnation Mayor Kim Lisk said during a press conference.
Lisk attributed the project’s beginning to former City Manager Ken Carter, whose widow, Connie, was among the spectators at the celebration.
“This is a $10 million project that took a lot of people and a lot of process,” she said. “It really took a group effort to make this come through.”
Representatives for Washington’s federal leaders, including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressmember Suzan DelBene, also addressed the significance of the project.
“The Tolt Avenue project is an example of what can happen when you combine federal state and local investments,” a DelBene spokesperson said. “This project invests in revitalizing a downtown corridor that benefits residents, businesses and visitors. It’s a project that invests in a more reliable and resilient infrastructure that will connect us to our communities’ jobs and loved ones for decades to come.”
The Tolt Avenue project can trace some of its history as far back as 2004, when the Puget Sound Regional Council, a regional inter-governmental body composed of local governments, began preparing a corridor plan for State Route 203 between Fall City and Monroe.
A subsequent grant was awarded to Carnation in 2007 for development along the corridor, which spawned the Tolt Avenue Action Plan in 2013.
That plan proposed collaborations with the Washington State Department of Transportation and Puget Sound Energy for improvements to the central business district that would introduce a new roadway, on-street parking and expanded pedestrian spaces that “suggest Tolt Avenue as an urban main street,” and lets visitors know they have “entered a commercial core.”
Construction on Tolt Avenue began in March 2021, and involved reconstruction of about 1,350 linear feet of Tolt Avenue between East Eugene Street and East Rutherford Street.
During construction, the road also saw a full closure of between July 15 and Aug. 6. The final phase of construction began on Aug. 8, and involves small beautification that will run through September, which could bring minor traffic impacts.
Deputy Mayor Jim Ribail, who took over as Carnation’s mayor beginning Sept. 1, thanked businesses for their support and resilience during the downtown construction and thanked residents for continuing to shop locally. He also highlighted the importance of working alongside state and local leaders.
“This is a huge effort and we’re a small city. We couldn’t do this by ourselves,” he said. “We want to be the best city on the Eastside to live in, to recreate, to visit, to enjoy so come see us on the weekends, come see us in the afternoon and enjoy what’s going on.”