PORT TOWNSEND — Sidewalk repairs costing $2,580,160 are necessary, city planners said this week, but how they will be done is up for discussion.
Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons presented feedback from a February streetscape charrette to the City Council on Monday night as part of a planning process that will take a minimum of 18 more months.
“We need to accomplish these [sidewalk] renovations in a way that is best for everyone,” said city Planning Director Rick Sepler.
“Whether we do them all at once or phase them in gradually needs to be decided.”
The city plans to replace sidewalks, many which have spaces, or “void” areas, underneath them. The sidewalks could collapse during an earthquake or other stress, city planners said.
“This is a serious condition that needs to be addressed,” Timmons said. “It’s not like we are trying to fix a trip hazard.”
The city has secured Federal Emergency Management grants for $2,245,640 for the sidewalk repair, leaving the city seeking an additional $334,520.
Beyond that, the city wants to replace the worn sidewalks with a “streetscape” that, according to the newly released charrette report “creates a more pedestrian friendly, welcoming and safe public environment while respecting its historic integrity and economic vitality.”
The sidewalk work would take a minimum of three years, an 18-month planning period, followed by a year of construction, architect Terry Reckord said.
That is likely to be extended by public discussion.
Also, even merchants who support the renovations oppose the idea of digging up the street for an entire summer.
“When construction begins, we can work around the merchants,” Sepler said. “We can put on a 24-hour workforce to get specific projects finished very quickly.”
Or, he said, the entire project can be postponed until the off-season as to not disrupt tourist trade.
“I think we need a break from all this,” said retired architect Todd Wexman, who attended the Monday meeting.
“With Sims Way construction, and the ferry, and the work downtown it’s been too much for established businesses to take.
“They could fail and newer businesses could come in and get all the benefits.
“I just think we should wait until the economy improves.”
“I disagree,” said Port Townsend Main Street Executive Director Mari Mullen.
“When the economy is bad, it makes more sense to do what will make a difference for the next 100 years.”
Said Elevated Ice Cream co-owner Julie McCulloch: “I think it’s great what the city plans to do with all these improvements.
“It can be a challenge to do business during construction, but it will be an improvement in the long run.
“We should think about the future and adapt in the present.”
McCulloch said acting quickly makes sense because the disaster relief funds are available.
“If there was something hazardous in your house you would fix it right away without thinking of the cost,” she said.
Planning in progress
The next step is for Sepler and his staff to begin planning the project. Public input is welcome, they said.
Along the way, some of that input will come from the City Council itself.
“We’ve always had trouble with the roads that end at the waterfront,” Mayor Michelle Sandoval said.
“They’ve been crowded and messy and full of parked trucks and other obstacles.
“I’d like to see us make better use of that resource and work to make those areas a little more pleasant.”
Sandoval also favors the installation of a bike rail along each newly constructed staircase, a steel groove that would allow cyclists to walk their bikes along an incline rather than bouncing them up and down the steps.
For updates about public meetings go to www.cityofpt.us/.
________Jefferson County reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]