What's up with that? Without money, city’s picking a few ‘good’ streets to fix

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

Are there any plans to make improvements on First Street between 164th and 192nd Avenues? The pavement is a mess, the paint is faded, and there is no lighting or sidewalk along most of this stretch!

Keli, your question sent Vancouver’s public works spokeswoman, Loretta Callahan, scurrying to a bevy of city managers to check. Folks in construction, pavement management and the operations division of Public Works all were consulted about present and future conditions of First Street.

Plans to improve it? The short answer is no.

Callahan pointed out that there’s been lots of local news coverage regarding the lack of funding available for transportation improvement projects. “It’s just a fact of life that we’re beginning to see some of the on-the-road (literally in this case) realities of that,” she said.

The last two major city capital transportation projects are now, or soon to be, under way, she said.

One is a realignment of roadways along the far west side of downtown, to make way for a humongous new waterfront development featuring condos, offices, shops, parks and more.

The other project is the widening and improvement of Northeast 137th-138th Avenue from 28th Street to 49th Street.

“Both have been in the works for years and include federal and state funding,” Callahan said. While you may see smaller infrastructure projects in progress around the city, she said, “these two are basically the last large transportation capital projects with construction funding that we currently have.”

Callahan agreed that Southeast First Street would be a great candidate for upgrades if funding existed “like many other streets around Vancouver,” she added. In fact, she said, the city did once receive grant money dedicated strictly to the redesign of a widened and improved streetscape. “Design work is ongoing as a result, but there is not sufficient funding to complete rights-of-way acquisitions and no funding for construction.”

Callahan said the city’s current strategy is to spend money “extending the lives of streets that have not reached failure or are in need of major reconstruction or widening.

“In other words, the focus is keeping ‘good’ streets in ‘good’ condition. When roads begin to fail, they fail quickly, and the costs to repair them increases dramatically.”

Because First Street gets regular heavy truck traffic, Callahan said, minor maintenance like patching and pothole-filling is an ongoing process, especially in winter.

“The concerns from your reader have been passed along to our Streets Maintenance and Operations Team, who will evaluate and prioritize the situation. We encourage citizens to submit requests directly for street-light repair, pothole patching, striping and other concerns through the website at http://cityofvancouver.us/servicerequest.”