SEQUIM — The 18-month reconstruction of Fir Street by Sequim schools has been put on hold through 2019.
Work originally was slated to begin this summer.
The hold-up is due to paperwork issues regarding purchasing right-of-way property on a grant application to the state Department of Transportation, Sequim city staff said Monday.
Fixing the error could take a few months, Sequim Public Works director David Garlington said, so staff will likely seek contractor bids in the fall and tentatively begin construction in early 2019 on the $4.5 million to $5-million project.
That means Fir Street could remain open for the Sequim Lavender Festival’s Street Fair, set for July 20-22.
However, Colleen Robinson, assistant executive director for the festival, said organizers are sticking with a plan to move vendors and live music to Sequim’s Carrie Blake Community Park next to the Albert Haller Playfields and James Center for Performing Arts.
“We feel we’ve gone far enough down the path that we’re going to stay at the park,” Robinson said.
She and other festival officials learned of the changes last Friday and a few days later decided to keep their plans.
Robinson said the uncertainty for the timeline to deconstruct the Sequim Community School adjacent to Fir Street was another factor, because construction vehicles and chain link fences could create safety and aesthetic concerns.
“We’ll need to be [at the park] next year anyways,” she said.
Following the previous construction timeline, Sequim city engineer Matt Klontz said the festival may have to move for two summers, so the updated schedule could impact the festival for 2020 as well.
Robinson said so far they’ve only discussed concrete plans for the 2018 Street Fair.
Klontz said city staff were planning to begin acquiring right-of-way this month along Fir Street and seek contractor bids in April before beginning construction this summer from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue.
But on Monday, Klontz told Sequim City Council members that the federal Surface Transportation program grant needed the cost of the right-of-way to match the State Improvement Transportation Program’s grant request for purchasing the right-of-way.
While the recording numbers don’t impact grant totals, Garlington said the error arose from 2014 estimates to acquire right-of-way along Fir Street at just more than $200,000 being listed on the paperwork.
New estimates including purchasing right-of-way to move roadway back and interfere with property such as the Sequim High School’s fastpitch dugouts and a pump station are closer to $900,000, Garlington said.
Klontz said to make the amendment will take about 30 days, both at the state and federal levels.
Klontz said the summer is a bad time to advertise for projects because many contractors are already working so, “it makes strategic sense to wait to advertise in September or October as work begins to slow down.”
A majority of the project’s details remain untouched, such as redoing water, sewer and irrigation lines while adding stormwater lines and reconstructing the stretch’s pavement.
One of the biggest plans includes installing a traffic light at the intersection of Fir Street and Fifth Avenue.
Klontz said following a traffic study on Fir Street, that intersection warranted a signal because traffic volumes are higher and anticipated to grow higher there compared to the Fir Street/Sequim Avenue intersection.
City staff will investigate other options for pedestrians at Fir/Sequim, Klontz said because they aren’t able to use a planned pedestrian crossing signal after federal officials told them a lawsuit is in place preventing them from using the signals due to patent issues.
Some of the many other aspects of the project include widening Fir Street to add bike lanes and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks/curbs on both sides of Fir Street, and moving utility poles underground.
Project plans show Fir Street will widen to 45 feet from Sequim Avenue to Fourth Avenue and 53 feet wide from Fourth to Fifth Avenues. Part of that includes two 5-feet wide bike lanes from Sequim to Fourth, and two 6-feet bike lanes from Fourth to Fifth.
Klontz said city staff typically let contractors set the schedule as to whether they will shut down sections or the whole stretch during construction, but Fir Street will become one-way for westbound traffic through construction. Drivers will be able to use Second, Third, and Fourth Avenue intersections to turn, however.
For more information about the Fir Street project, call Sequim Public Works at 360-683-4908.
For more information about the Sequim Lavender Festival, visit www.lavenderfestival.com.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].