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City postpones paving until 2014

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A trial installation of a bike corral in Wenatchee’s downtown core has proven successful, say civic officials. Bike facilities is a top concern of business people and customers in surveys about downtown improvements that could be part of a repaving project in 2014.

WENATCHEE — A four-block repaving project of Wenatchee Avenue through the downtown core has been postponed until 2014 to allow more planning time, city officials announced Wednesday.

Delay of the street overlay project, originally scheduled for next summer, will give planners, property owners and business managers more time to decide what additional changes and amenities — other than new asphalt — should be added when downtown streets are torn up.

This has evolved into more than just a simple paving project,” said Steve King, the city’s director of public works engineering. “And the desire to do more than just pave the streets means that doing the project in 2013 is not a realistic timeline.”

He announced the project’s new schedule at a luncheon meeting that included a recap of suggested ideas and designs for the downtown streetscape. About 40 downtown business folks, planners and civic and city officials attended.

King said the postponement would also give city planners time to see how the downtown overlay project might relate to other big street projects, including work on the George Sellar Bridge, setting Mission Street as a downtown truck route and making safety adjustments to several intersections.

For the last six months, the Wenatchee Downtown Association has hosted meetings for business people and officials to discuss what else could be added or changed to the downtown streetscape when the overlay takes place.

Those changes could include below-surface improvements to electrical and water lines, but mostly above-surface changes in parking and traffic flow, width and use of sidewalks, new benches and bike racks, landscaping and trees and the design and use of public spaces.

Linda Haglund, WDA’s executive director, has urged business and property owners to take advantage of the project’s “dust and muss” to make improvements to the streetscape, last repaved in 1999.

At Wednesday’s meeting, planners from Project Groundwork, a Wenatchee-based planning and design firm, also presented other findings from discussions with business people and downtown customers in the last six months:

• The top four concerns in downtown surveys were truck traffic along Wenatchee Avenue, improved landscaping, sidewalk repairs and bike facilities.

• Better signs are needed to mark public parking lots, restrict bikes and skateboards on sidewalks, direct visitors to downtown attractions and amentities and even to identify streets.

• Most of downtown’s trees need to be replaced. Many of the trees have grown too large and roots are lifting sections of sidewalks. A system to replace a few at a time — to avoid losing all the trees at once — would be worked out.

• Sidewalks need widening in many areas.

A final cost of downtown’s overlay project isn’t yet known, but the city has about $690,000 in federal grant money for repaving projects, mostly in the downtown area.

The Wenatchee Avenue project would likely disrupt the flow of downtown traffic and shoppers for a few weeks, officials have said.

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business. follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.