Questions grow as Winslow Way reconstruction ticks closer

With just a couple months until the bulldozers start rumbling there are many Winslow Way reconstruction questions yet to be answered.

The much pared down plan to update the infrastructure of the island’s main street will impact businesses for at least eight months. Business owners have watched as the project stalled or delayed numerous times during the last three years, but even with a green light many decisions are yet to be made.

Crews are expected to begin work in the last week of March. In the meantime city staff will be addressing many of the questions asked by the community related to the communication plan, management and parking impacts.

Tucci and Sons Inc. from Tacoma is the lowest contract bidder thus far with a bid of $4,337,272. The contract has not yet been awarded. The bid includes the cost of all major construction, about $4.3 million. The total project cost includes construction; lighting equipment, $250,000; professional services, $500,000; for a total of $5.1 million, according to Interim City Engineer Chris Wierzbicki. Leftover funds will be used for contingency.

Wierzbicki met with about 20 downtown business owners and community members Wednesday to present the project. Community members had questions, and where they couldn’t get answers they seemed willing to collaborate amongst themselves.

Marti Lawrence-Grant, owner of That’s A Some Pizza, was involved in reconstruction plans years ago. The small shop is located on Winslow Way just off State Route 305.

“Really nothing can faze me now,” Lawrence-Grant said. “We’ve heard about this for years. Now its finally going to happen.”

Wierzbicki said the city will lessen the code restrictions during the duration of the project to allow businesses more freedom. Owners can have more creative signs, sandwich boards, outdoor shopping and even food sales on the sidewalks for construction workers and shoppers.

That may be helpful for Lawrence-Grant, who is expanding into a building next door for extra space and selection of foods.

Both the city and shop keepers want work to be completed as quickly as possible.

Incentives are in place to get the core of the project – Winslow Way, from Ericksen Avenue to Madison Avenue – finished by July 4. Construction will likely start at Madison - the low end of the sewer and storm water system. Contractors have the discretion to determine what sides of the street to work on, but the sidewalks will be open at all times – with the help of temporary solutions such as bridges over trenches – to maintain access to storefronts. Construction should be finished by October.

Wierzbicki said the city has had trouble developing the communication plan. The council set aside $40,000 for a plan during their budget process.

“Trouble is we have had issues working with the chamber, downtown association in trying to determine the most effective way to administer this piece of work,” said Wierzbicki. “We just started having this conversation yesterday so by next week we should have a point person for how this is going to work.”

A banner is in the works to be displayed in the Winslow Mall and the city plans to present the project details to community organizations.

Sustainable Bainbridge will help with plant relocation, but according to Wierzbicki most of the trees can’t be relocated on the street. When the project is finished there will be twice as many trees planted as there are today.

Many of the utility poles will be moved, and that work may begin as early as mid-February when Puget Sound Energy (PSE), according to Chris Hammer, city engineer.

PSE won’t stop traffic, but will take up a few parking spaces. Hammer said there will be no power outage in the construction area.

Undergrounding the power lines was a popular component of the project that was slashed in budget cuts. Wierzbicki said the city is saving about $2.5 million by not undergrounding the power. The new poles will still be made of wood.

There is a restrictive noise variance, according to Wierzbicki, though night work is permitted.

Dust mitigation measures are outlined, but the contractor will be responsible for control.

“Dust is going to be an issue, and so is rain,” said Wierzbicki.”The rain will help keep the dust down, but we can’t have too much rain to work in.”

Deliveries will have to occur off Winslow Way, but an exact location hasn’t been determined.

The city will likely make the gravel parking lot near City Hall available to the public to add a total of 50 spaces during the week. The Virginia Mason Health Clinic parking lot may be available during the weekends as well as Bjune. Parking details are still being worked out, but business owners expressed agreement that customers have the best options and owners will communicate with employees on where to park. There was a consensus to ensure communication and signage would clearly lay out options.

There is still a debate over how the city should broadcast news of the project.

“When people get here we should find the best ways to navigate the construction, but not to spread too much information regionally, when people may overestimate the impact of the project,” said Andrea Mackin, of the Chamber of Commerce. “We should just do everything to accommodate visitors when they get here.”

No one quite knows what exactly to expect when the streets are finally opened for this contentious project.

“One thing I ask is that no one finds any historical artifacts,” said Wierzbicki.

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