Saturday, September 14, 2013/lk
Engineers like straight lines, and Bill Ketchum gave a straight one to City Council on Monday.
“On Sept. 16 things are going to get ugly. We’ll be causing problems and closing roads.”
Ketchum is project manager for Crestline Construction on the State Street Urban Renewal project, which enters a new and, as Ketchum describes it, problematic, phase.
As a signal of things to come, on Thursday flaggers controlled traffic from Fourth to Second streets as locators, surveyors and concrete workers took measurements, put down markings and made initial cuts in the street surface for excavation that will come — soon.
Starting Sept. 16, between Second and Fourth streets, Crestline will close State Street during the day as street cuts and excavation proceed in earnest. A major element of the $5 million project is undergrounding overhead utility lines and installing new water and stormwater lines, and work on both of those is what is about to start.
The daytime closures means full detours, not the one-way traffic as it has been for the past month. All cars must now shift to Oak Street as they go to and from the State Street bridge and Highway 35.
In another big change, the Fourth Street intersection will be fully closed, eastbound. Cars will still be able to travel between State and Oak via Fourth. However, no cars or pedestrians will have access to the Hood River County Courthouse, on the south side of the intersection.
Ketchum said that starting Sept.16, daytime access by car or foot to the courthouse will be restricted — and closed by Sept. 19.
With the closure of State comes the disappearance of parking on both sides of the street between Fourth and Second.
That means that in less than a week, any vehicle traffic to the courthouse will have to go via Sherman Street, a block south of State. Sherman is a narrow, congested street that is already heavily used by courthouse employees and visitors, as well as the numerous residences between Sixth and Second streets. Parking on the courthouse property is restricted, and will be harder to get to when the State Street access is closed.
Also, on-street parking is at a premium on Sherman, which has the added attraction of being meter-less. In addition, parking on Sherman to the east of the courthouse is limited to one side of the street only.
This is in part due to the narrowness of the four eastern-most blocks of Sherman, where the road slims to one lane, with precarious shoulders, substandard asphalt and limited visibility due to a sharp incline. Increased traffic is a certainty on Sherman, and more people with business at the courthouse are likely to try to park on Sherman.
Back on State, two businesses are directly affected by closure of the street during the day: Discover Bikes at the corner of Third and State, and Sustain Interiors, next door to the east of Discover. Ketchum said the north sidewalk on State will remain open so that customers can get to Sustain. Third Street will be open north of State, to vehicles and pedestrians.
Another frank reality of the project is that, to save money, the ditches they dig will filled with gravel, rather than temporarily paved with asphalt, so it is quicker and less expensive to dig them out again the next day and continue the work.
All that gravel, even compacted, means the potential for more debris on the roadway.
Dev Bell, project engineer, said, “We’ll look at ways to slow traffic at night,” to reduce spread of gravel. Steel plates could also be placed over the gravel, Bell said.