City responds to downtown merchants’ concerns about 5th Avenue construction project

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The City of Edmonds Public Works Department says it is committed to minimizing impacts to downtown businesses and holiday shoppers as it continues its 2011 waterline replacement project on 5th Avenue to Elm Street (see map) during next several weeks.

Public Works Director Phil Williams said Friday that the the goal had been to ensure the project moved south of Walnut Street, where fewer businesses are located, after the Thanksgiving holiday. He said he didn’t realize that downtown merchants were holding their “First Dibs” event, an early kickoff to the holiday shopping season, starting with the Art Walk Thursday and continuing through this weekend.

After some merchants expressed concern about the “no parking” signs and other construction activity during this critical time of year, City Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton sent an email to City Engineer Rob English Thursday, and Senior Utilities Engineer Mike De Lilla, who is overseeing the project, shared it with My Edmonds News:

“The 2011 Waterline Replacement project has been in the works since late last year. We’ve had a map with project scope along with an approximate timeline posted on our website since about February of this year.  The impact on 5th will stretch from Walnut to Elm.

The no parking M-F 7am to 4pm signs and barricades take approximately an area of about 2 blocks located at the intersection of Walnut and 5th. The project barricading/signs are expected to head southward, like a bubble, from Walnut and eventually end at Elm.

The contractor expects to be in the Walnut area for the rest of this week and into next week.  We expect them to be about 1-2 blocks south of the intersection of Walnut after the Thanksgiving holiday, which would mean that the no parking signs will be further south.  I’ll make sure to coordinate with the contractor that the signs are not blocking the parking during the holiday from November 24 to 27, since they are not working those days.  I’ll also make sure they amend the signs so that it allows for parking any time from November 24 to November 27.  We’ve also had the contractor move the no parking signs out of the parking areas for tonight’s event.

In regard to notices, they were sent out to all addresses within the project area, and also anybody within about 200 feet for the project.  It included a map of the project limits and a project start time.

We also sent out invites to those same addresses for open house meetings which were held on May 4 and July 26 of this year.  During these meetings, we went over the plans and went more in depth over the overall project schedule, impacts, and what we were doing to maximize the amount of time that the contractor was not working on 5th Ave the weeks before Christmas.

As for the most up to date schedule information, it is as follows:

The waterline installation on 5th Avenue is scheduled to take place from now until about December 9 (along with associated temporary roadway patching).  The contractor will then install waterline on Howell, Homeland, Holly, and Forsyth from about Dec 9 until Christmastime.  (We’ve coordinated with the contractor as much as possible so that 5th Avenue is not encumbered the two weeks before Christmas.)

After Christmas to the end of January, the contractor plans to do the waterline testing, waterline connections and fire hydrant installations for the entire project area.  During this time period, we will be switching the water services for a lot of the businesses in the area.  For businesses that cannot have their services interrupted during this process, we’re already started to setup a list to make sure that we provide a bypass system so that they will not be affected during the period that the service switch happens.

Sometime late January to Mid February (weather permitting) we will place permanent asphalt patches to all the areas that were affected by the project.

Finally, we are in the process of manufacturing some sandwich boards with the text:  “Businesses Open During Construction” so that they can be strategically placed with the construction signage that the contractor is using as he heads south toward Elm.

Williams said he is grateful the merchants contacted the City about the issue. “We understand that they (the merchants) need parking, they need access and they need customers to be able to get to their stores,” Williams said.

Williams noted that the project is critical to the health of the City’s aging public works infrastructure, noting that the waterline being replaced is between 80 and 90 years old.

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