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Surviving downtown construction

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Signs block the southern end of Wenatchee’s downtown construction project on June 23 but remind customers that businesses remain open.

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There may be a little inconvenience involved from time to time, but downtown Wenatchee is open for business.

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Most of the scores of businesses along the main commercial strip remain open — and accessible — as downtown’s largest street project in two decades retools 100-year-old water-sewer lines, adds fire protection, rewires the street-level electric system, installs truck barriers, improves tree irrigation and spiffs up the street with an overlay of fresh asphalt.

Planned for two years and underway for two months, the project reaches a dusty crescendo in July as underground work wraps up and overlay work proceeds. Big asphalt chewing machines — called RotoMills — will strip away 2 inches of street surface in preparation for new paving and gleaming new striping.

Sounds messy? Dusty? Noisy? Yeah, for short periods it’ll be all those things. But city engineers, consulting project designers and the general contractor have worked to limit the daytime rumble by doing most of the heavy work at night.

To accommodate that work, streets will remain closed from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays through much of the month, and maybe into August. Nighttime closures will likely be relaxed, say officials, as the project winds down. Most street work will be completed in the first two weeks of August with finishing touches expected to wrap up by Aug. 20.

That’s two weeks longer than the original construction timeline, noted Project Foreman Dave Allen, an engineer with design firm SCJ Alliance. “But there are always surprises with this type of project,” he said. “Readjusting the timeline is often part of the process.”

Here’s what’s happened so far and what to expect:

Paving

What’s done? Access holes have been dug, sawed or jackhammered above underground pipe and electric systems. Those access openings, now temporarily patched with asphalt, await the final overlay.

What’s coming? Sometime in mid-July, the contractor will bring in Rotomills to chew away about 2 inches of old asphalt from travel lanes. Asphalt in parking spaces will remain mostly untouched. The work is expected to be completed in one or two nights. A week later, new asphalt will be installed.

Downtown disruption factor? Moderate to maximum. This is the project’s biggest job in a string of big jobs. After the asphalt is removed, drivers will notice a fairly bumpy road surface for about a week before a new roadway is laid. A 1- to 2-inch drop-off from the parking spaces to the travel lanes will be evident. Step carefully.

Sewer system upgrades

What’s done? New plastic linings have been robotically installed inside the 100-year-old, ceramic-and-concrete main lines. Presto: leaks be gone. Four new manholes — access pipes that descend 15 feet underground and cost $7,000 to $10,000 each — have replaced fixtures from the early 1900s.

What’s coming? Most of the underground work has been completed, but a few adjustments remain to be done to the new lining, manholes and pipe junctions.

Downtown disruption factor? Moderate. The hard work here is done, but street-level utilities — manholes and other access covers — will need to be height-adjusted as paving rolls out. Work crews may block off small areas during daytime hours. Otherwise, most work will take place at night.

Water system upgrades

What’s done? The five-block line has been substantially upgraded. Old galvanized steel pipes — rusting out in places — were replaced with high-test piping. Fifteen new 6-inch fire lines serving 30 or more buildings were installed to enhance water flow to new and existing sprinkler systems.

What’s coming? The bulk of the work is done. But final tweaks to tree-irrigation systems in the southernmost blocks still need attention. Daytime work crews could block off one or two parking spaces for brief periods.

Downtown disruption factor? Minimal. Most of the work was underground with little surface work left to do.

Electrical system upgrades

What’s done? Most of downtown Wenatchee’s electrified trees — sparkly lights are woven through the branches — are fed by weather-proofed power systems. Now the trees in the one-block stretch between Kittitas and Yakima streets can light up, too, after a new system was installed. Most outdoor electrical outlets at the base of the trees were also replaced.

What’s coming? The project’s biggest electrical job is rewiring of the Orondo intersection to accommodate new traffic signals. That’ll take place sometime in mid- to late-July.

Downtown disruption factor? Moderate. Portions of the intersection may need to be closed — and traffic rerouted — for brief periods as work progresses.

Other stuff

What’s done? New wayfinding signs installed. Curb, sidewalk and gutter improvements mostly completed. Concrete poured for new water and sewer fittings.

What’s coming? Upgrades to crosswalks. ADA adjustments to curbs and sidewalks. Repairs to a few rough patches of parking asphalt and cross-street pavement. Installation of truck barriers (mid-lane islands to limit truck traffic) at Second and Yakima streets. Final striping of parking spaces, crosswalks and other pedestrian areas.

Downtown disruption factor? Moderate. Traffic lanes will be blocked for brief periods as crosswalks, truck barriers and new striping “cure” in place. Some daytime work will be necessary.

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