The City of Kirkland has responded to this letter to the editor by Patty Tucker:
Construction on Northeast 85th Street will continue for a year. During that time, the City of Kirkland will continue to monitor and adjust traffic flow by every possible means, whether it is through re- synchronizing traffic signals, minimizing lane closures and, if necessary, momentarily halting work so traffic can “flush” through. Still, commuters should plan regularly for delays on this corridor.
The City of Kirkland—with its contractor, Johansen Excavating, is now beginning major work on this corridor–one of the City’s most ambitious public works projects to-date. The Northeast 85th Street Improvement Project will transform the character of 85th Street, from that of a decommissioned State Route—State Route 908—to Kirkland’s Rose Hill Gateway. It will build sidewalks along both sides of the street from I-405 to 132nd Avenue Northeast. It will improve traffic signal technology, which will make driving more predictable. It will replace a 60-year-old water main to ensure that tens of thousands of residents will have plenty of clean water for drinking and fire suppression. It establishes a more comprehensive stormwater management system, which will better protect Lake Washington from the stew of oil, grease, heavy metals and engine coolants that flushes into it every time it rains.
These are extraordinary benefits. However, they require a community investment—not just of money, but of patience, as well. The repaving of a typical street, for example, may take a month or so. The building of a few blocks of sidewalk might take four months. The installation of a new water main often takes five to six months. The Northeast 85th Street Improvements Project not only entails all of these elements, but the mile-long corridor is of a larger magnitude than more typical projects. Additionally, the Northeast 85th Street Project adds technology upgrades to traffic signals, new turn-lanes on 124th and 132nd Avenues Northeast, new street lights along the entire corridor, and an all new asphalt overlay from 114th Avenue Northeast to 132nd Avenue Northeast.
Completing each of these projects, as its own contract and with its own individual contractor, could take multiple years; Kirkland’s contractor schedule currently shows completing the projects in one year. The contractor will accomplish this by implementing the design strategies as well as viewing the project holistically -- identifying efficiencies and by completing several project elements at the same time. For example, while the contractor is installing the storm drains, its workers may also be building the street’s median islands. While one crew is building sidewalks, another crew will be installing the foundations for the street lights. This more efficient construction process is a direct benefit of the years Kirkland’s project staff spent planning, designing and reaching out to businesses and property owners throughout the corridor.
Taken together, these kinds of efficiencies will more quickly manifest the community’s long-held vision for a Gateway for our City. Building that Gateway requires an investment—of money and patience. The nearby residents will have to deal with construction noise – night and day as the schedule specifically allows for night work, while commuters will have to plan ahead for traffic delays. When it’s done, however, the residents of Rose Hill and all of the City will have a corridor “total make-over” and Gateway to be proud of.