PORT TOWNSEND — The final phase of the Water Street Enhancement Project is on track for completion the week of July 9.
A Party at the Plaza on Saturday celebrated the upcoming end of construction with a ribbon-cutting for the new Tyler Street Plaza.
The city’s $2.7 million project aimed to replace aging infrastructure, improve drainage, add streetscape improvements and lay the groundwork for undergrounding utilities.
However, a wrench was thrown into the progress Friday with a little rain that curtailed the paving from Polk Street to the ferry terminal.
“We decided not to do the final ‘lift’ on the south side of the roadway, because of the moist weather,” said Laura Parsons, civil engineer and project manager.
“We didn’t want to have moisture on the portion we did on Thursday,” she said.”So we postponed the work until Monday and hope for drier conditions.”
A “lift” is a layer of asphalt, and the contractor, Lakeside Industries of Port Angeles, is applying two of them. The first is 3-inches deep; the second is 2 1/2-inches deep.
Parsons said crews also will complete driveways, including the entrance to Don’s Pharmacy and the Quimper Mercantile.
“The property owners of PT Plaza and US Bank consolidated their two entrances into one entry point,” Parsons said.
“By doing so, the city gained some parking spaces on the street and in the parking lot.”
She said that overall no parking spaces were lost in the project because crews were able to standardized the length of the spaces. More angled parking was gained because the engineers made all the widths the same.
Additionally, there are now four ADA-accessible spaces, up from the previous three.
The work affected Thursday’s traffic flow, with flaggers allowing one lane of vehicles to move through with delays up to 15 minutes.
“Next week we’ll be exposing the manholes and valve covers,” Parsons said. “During the final week, we’ll be striping the lanes and making adjustments as needed.”
Lakeside Industries’ Thomas Stanford said the asphalt used for the project was made at the Shine plant in Jefferson County.
”Being close by is a benefit,” Stanford noted. “The product doesn’t have too much time to cool down during transport.”
Ideally the asphalt comes out of the paver equipment at about 295 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.
One of Stanford’s jobs on Thursday was to make sure the asphalt was being rolled out to the correct density.
“I follow the big rollers around, after they roll it about four to five times, then I set a gauge. It runs a test to measure how dense the material is,” he said.
”We have to reach a certain percentage of the maximum theoretical density. We are shooting for 92 percent of that density. We’re hitting that mark pretty consistently today.”
Parsons said that although the road surface looks flat, it really isn’t. It is sloped a few degrees to guarantee water runs to the curbs and into the rain gardens for cleaning before going into the sewers.
One of the curious things to occur is that some of the vegetation in those newly planted rain gardens was pulled out over night on several occasions.
“We thought it might be deer, but are now considering it might be sea gulls,” she speculated.
The effect on the business community has been generally neutral, according to Mari Mullen, executive director of Port Townsend Main Street Program.
Mullen said Main Street shopping totes and construction coupon books provided good momentum in the beginning of the project, as well as the Believe it Or Knot game, for which grand prize drawings were done on Saturday.
“One merchant I just spoke to who was in the thick of the construction zone said January through March was either flat or up,”Mullen said. “April and May were hardest because that was when construction was most active by her store.”
The merchant saw a lot of customers who walked from the ferry. To date, she is up 1 percent for the six-month period, Mullen said.
“The mid-week periods were most challenging for her business, with weekends often being busy enough to regain the loss,” said Mullen. “Several restaurants I’ve spoken to have echoed this. Some businesses on Taylor Street saw very little or no impact.
“It is likely that every business will be different as to how it went for them, their type of business, their marketing efforts, social media profile, etc.”
“Overall, most of the people we have spoken with feel business has been better than expected,” she observed.
“We have a beautiful new streetscape with pedestrian amenities: a new plaza, new sidewalks, new street trees and rain gardens, and a brand new Water Street. The PUD is scheduled to underground the power in March or April 2019.
“Now we have a lot to celebrate,” Mullen said.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]