The city of Vancouver is finalizing its plan to spend millions of dollars on the reconstruction of Main Street to enhance downtown and improve pedestrian access.
The city will soon direct more than $10 million — mostly from federal grants, such as the American Rescue Plan Act — to improve the streetscape of Main Street between West Fifth and West 15th streets.
The design is near 90 percent complete, and construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2024, according to a city council workshop July 17. For now, the city’s focus is engaging with downtown businesses to ensure they can successfully operate during construction and beyond.
“We are honoring and celebrating the history of this part of our community, building upon existing and new partnerships with our business communities, and (building a) stronger sense of community identity,” said Ryan Lopossa, streets and transportation manager for the city.
The Main Street Promise project will replace the street’s current parking options with parallel parking spots, install pedestrian-scale lighting, enhance crosswalks and extend sidewalks in the 10-block zone. Community members can view the nearly finished design in a virtual animation.
The city has spent months engaging with businesses and city residents, but the images shown in the animated video received some online criticism for not being pedestrian- or bicycle-friendly enough.
“Too many cars. Get rid of the cars, and make this a pedestrian-only space,” one commenter on Instagram wrote. “No one wants to spend time on a loud street smelling vehicle exhaust. Support our local businesses, and build a street for people, not for cars!”
“This looks like they made more space for cars to park and less room for bikes and pedestrians,” another commenter wrote.
The design does not include any designated bike lanes. Jason Irving, project manager for MacKay Sposito, a consulting firm that worked on the project, said at an open house last month that bicycle riders will be safer due to slowed traffic, and added that nearby, parallel Columbia Street has dedicated bicycle lanes.
During the council workshop, city staff said this design should make Main Street more pedestrian-friendly through extended sidewalks, improved lighting and enhanced crosswalks.
“We want to make this corridor much more pedestrian- and bicycle-centric, putting much less emphasis on behavioral traffic,” Lopossa said.
The total time of construction is still up in the air, though Lopossa said the city hopes to finish the project before construction begins on the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement to “give the downtown a little bit of a breather.”
Until construction begins next year, the city’s focus is communicating with downtown businesses and ensuring their concerns are heard. The city holds a downtown stakeholder meeting on the third Tuesday of each month and will hold an open house this fall following the completed design.
During the council workshop, city councilors expressed their appreciation for the consideration of pedestrians, specifically those with physical disabilities. Along with new, wider sidewalks, and leveling sidewalks with the street, the city will add tactile guidance strips along the edges of sidewalks, which assist pedestrians who are vision impaired.
“I want to understand a lot more about how the tactile guidance is going to be used. … I don’t want our seeing-impaired people to feel like they’re shoved over to the side, but I’m excited to hear how that will be integrated,” Councilor Ty Stober said.