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City breaks ground on second phase of N. Olympic Ave. reconstruction project

From left, Arlington City Council members Scott Solla and Steve Baker, Mayor Margaret Larson, and Council members Dick Butner, Chris Raezer, Marilyn Oertle and Graham Smith ceremonially dig their shovels into the earth to break ground on the second phase of the North Olympic Avenue Reconstruction Project at Legion Park March 22. -
From left, Arlington City Council members Scott Solla and Steve Baker, Mayor Margaret Larson, and Council members Dick Butner, Chris Raezer, Marilyn Oertle and Graham Smith ceremonially dig their shovels into the earth to break ground on the second phase of the North Olympic Avenue Reconstruction Project at Legion Park March 22.
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ARLINGTON Cold rain did not dampen the excitement as Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson and the members of the City Council ceremonially dug their shovels into the earth to break ground on the second phase of the North Olympic Avenue Reconstruction Project at Legion Park March 22.
Larson commended not only the Council members, but also the city staff and the merchants of Olympic Avenue for all their efforts to bring this project to fruition through the years.
I thank you all for hanging in there this long and I hope you can hold tight until we finish, said Larson, who went on to cite the vision and commitment of city of Arlington Capital Projects Manager Paul Ellis, Economic Development Manager Vic Ericson and On-Site Construction Manager Terry Marsh.
City officials and audience members alike then retreated from the rain to an open house in the Arlington City Council Chambers, where attendees received more information on the progress of the project through conversations and displays.
Ellis reported that the Bellingham-based Strider Construction, which was awarded the contract for the second phase of the North Olympic Avenue Reconstruction Project for a cost of $4.1 million, is set to begin work by early to mid-April. The project area will cover the six blocks of North Olympic Avenue from Division Street to Maple Street, plus small segments of First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth streets.
Darren Mullen, project manager for Strider Construction, expects construction to start on the north end of Olympic Avenue and plans to proceed by replacing the storm water lines first, then replacing the water lines and demolishing the sidewalks. Once completed, the project will also provide new sewer lines, curbs and gutters, street trees and lighting, trash receptacles, and three-quarters of a mile of new road surface.
Mullen declined to speculate on exact dates or timetables for the construction since Strider Construction and the city of Arlington are still discussing several of those, although he promised to keep local merchants and residents up to date and in the loop.
Well be giving weekly overall notices and following them up with 48-hour prior reminders, Mullen said. We should be finished by October, but were trying to accelerate the process and make it as painless as possible.
Many area resident and merchants who attended the open house voiced optimistic opinions.
Jim Cummins, who lives south of the Cascade Valley Hospital and Clinics, believes repairs to Olympic Avenue are long overdue.
Im concerned with some of these signs and overhangs coming down with another earthquake, said Cummins, who has lived in Arlington seven years. Im also concerned about parking. What about a two-story parking lot? Id like to see that implemented.
Cummins wondered what types of businesses the city might be able to attract to the improved street, since hed like to see its merchants benefit from more foot traffic.
I hope, at the end of all this, to have a pleasant place that can be enjoyed equally by youngsters and seniors, newcomers and third- or fourth-generation residents, Cummins said. Its not going to be like it used to, but itll never be that way again, no matter what we do. We cant turn back the clock.
Ron Potter, who lives just north of town off Highway 9, echoed Cummins sentiments about the inevitability of change.
Its not a small town anymore, said Potter, who has lived in Arlington since he was a seventh-grader, nearly 40 years ago. So many of the trees and fields I remember are gone and replaced by houses. The proposals Im seeing for changes to the downtown look really nice and change has got to happen, with the growth in traffic and population.
Potters friend, Jim Howell, lives in Silvana but owns the Shell station in downtown Arlington. He anticipates that such street improvements could attract more families to the city.
As a Fifth Street resident and the owner of Donnelson Electric in downtown Arlington, Jim Donnelson will be closer to the construction than many in the city, but he also expressed support for the proposed improvements.
I like it, Donnelson said. It seems like theyve done a good job of coordinating their plans and handling the concerns theyve been approached with. It could revitalize activity in the downtown and give merchants the walk-in business they need to survive. It could also create an atmosphere that out-of-towners will enjoy enough to want to come here.
Jeanne Watanabe, of 360 Home Real Estate on Olympic Avenue, was staffing the booth of the Arlington Downtown Merchants with Robin Miller, of Favorite Pastime, at the open house. Watanabe praised the city for its work on the project, which she eagerly awaits.
This is going to challenge all our businesses to improve ourselves, Watanabe said. Im excited by the enthusiasm and energy of everyone involved. This offers us so many opportunities to blossom. Thats part of why I opened my business here. Weve already come up with so many fun ideas to make the merchants a stronger, more creative, more strategic team. Ive never seen a city participate as much in this type of project before.
Watanabe also considered the proposed improvements to be well thought out and cohesive.
Well continue to work with the businesses to keep the lines of communication open, said Ellis, pointing to the city staffs regular presence at the downtown merchants meetings, every Wednesday at 8 a.m. in the Little Italy Italian Market. We cant do this without some impacts, but well try to minimize those impacts as much as we can.

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