Port Townsend city officials, Jefferson County commissioners and community members gather for a ribbon-cutting for the new Rainier Street in Port Townsend on Wednesday morning. (Port Townsend Public Works Department)

Port Townsend’s new Rainier Street opens as part of Howard Street project

PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend’s Rainier Street, formally known as Howard Street, is officially open to traffic and is the first major step in the city’s plan to develop the Howard Street subarea.

After $6.5 million and more than a year of construction, the new Rainier Street now connects Sims Way and Discovery Road, which is meant to help reduce traffic along Sims Way and allow more commercial development in the area.

“The next step now is getting our land-use designations in line with our plans,” said City Manager David Timmons.

The Howard Street subarea plans, which are the end result of months of public outreach by the city, were discussed by the Planning Commission on Sept. 28 and will likely be a topic of discussion at the commission’s Nov. 9 meeting as well.

Allows businesses

According to Timmons, the plans would allow for small manufacturing or artisan businesses to set up or expand into Rainier Street.

“Basically what we’re looking at is a crafts, manufacturing and artisan district,” Timmons said.

Ryan Givens, a representative from AHBL — a Seattle-based engineering consultant firm that has been working with the city — gave a presentation to the commission in September that laid out some of the common themes seen in the two public workshops held earlier this year.

Allowing space for both jobs and housing continued to be the major asks of the community; however, AHBL is still working on a final project plan, or a number of options, to present to the city.

The new Rainier Street, for which ground was broken at the end of August 2016, was the culmination of more than 20 years of planning. A 1994 city arterial plan designated the new street as a thoroughfare for both tourist and residential traffic.

Former Port Townsend Major Brent Shirley said in an interview at the groundbreaking that plans to develop the Howard Street area date back to the 1980s, when the area was rezoned from residential to commercial.

City officials and community members gathered again at Rainier Street and South Park Avenue, the same place they gathered in 2016 for the groundbreaking, for a ribbon-cutting Wednesday morning to officially open the new street and the new traffic circle on Discovery Road.

Mayor Deborah Stinson, Ashley Probart of the Transportation Improvement Board and representatives from the state Department of Transportation and the Community Revitalization Board spoke at the event. The Port Townsend High School marching band also was in attendance for the ribbon-cutting.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.