The Centralia City Council approved the final design of the Centralia Streetscape project with some hesitation from Councilor Rebecca Staebler and Councilor Joyce Barnes before the motion to approve passed six to one.
Brandon Johnson and Elizabeth Wooton from SCJ Alliance presented the designs they have been working on for the locations of Centralia that seemed to be of the most concern of people who attended the streetscape project’s open house. Their presentation included final recommendations of how to use the $3 million in Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds designated for the project by the council in March of 2019.
“This is the full summary. This is what we think we can accomplish with the $3 million funding and there’s a little bit potential extra,” said Wooton.
The corridors of town designated for the most work were, in order of importance, Harrison Avenue and Main Street; Mellen, Alder and Cherry Streets; and Tower Avenue. The priority outcomes of the projects are safety, wayfinding, economic development and beautification. The community made a few common requests including increased maintenance on existing roads, more flower baskets and seating, more attention to Harrison Avenue/Interstate 5 underpass, and more bicycle facilities.
“We’ve had some public meetings and got some feedback and catalogued a lot of information. So we are ready to give our final presentation and recommendations on how to best use this money that we have set aside for this project,” said Johnson.
Wooton said they used the existing features of historic downtown — the black street poles, metal benches and red brick pavement — in an effort to tie the whole city together.
On the Harrison Avenue portion of the project, $660,000 is estimated to be spent, out of the total $3 million, on median islands, painted street poles, landscaping, a gateway sign, and intersection improvements. The landscaping is planned to be composed of drought-resistant plants and boulders that require minimal upkeep.
The Mellen, Alder, Cherry Street improvements include median islands, painted street poles, street edge treatments, landscaping, and intersection, sidewalk, and crosswalk improvements which is estimated to cost $1.46 million.
It was proposed that an estimated $310,000 be used to add citywide wayfinding and signage that would have the same style of design to help tie the city together and lead people to the downtown area. Some possible destinations to include on the signs would be city hall, post office, Centralia College, George Washington Park, the train station, Timberland Library, Riverside Park, historic downtown, and Regional Sports Hub. There are three types of signs that are being considered: a pedestrian level sign that would be used in the downtown area, slow-vehicle signs, ans a larger fast-vehicles sign located near the on and off ramps.
Bike lanes throughout the city were a consideration but it would mean giving up a lot of the on-street parking downtown and throughout the city and it hasn’t been determined if there is a great enough desire to do so at this point in time.
Wooton ended by mentioning possible future projects on Main Street and North and South Tower Avenue that include adding decorative street lights, adding street trees and hanging flower baskets. She also mentioned the possibility of a bicycle network expansion.
Staebler brought up that there was not a huge response from the public at the open house where the data guiding the project’s decisions was gathered.
“I guess I want to make sure there’s still some times when we stop and say ‘Let’s take a pulse.’ For me looking at it I still question Harrison being the top priority, frankly. I am still conflicted about are we still trying to push Mellen as a main access to town?” she asked.
Staebler agreed that they need signage on Harrison Avenue to make people feel welcomed into town but personally didn’t think much more should be done at this point.
“(Harrison Avenue) doesn’t need to be fixed, it can be improved but it doesnt need to be fixed. Mellen and Alder and Cherry need to be fixed. And South Tower needs to be fixed,” she said.