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A Street makeover

An architect's drawing shows how A Street in downtown Rainier will look after an $11.1 million safety makeover.

Construction on Rainier’s A Street will be extended until late May — seven months longer than scheduled — Oregon Department of Transportation officials told the Rainier City Council on Monday night, prompting concern from business owners and the council.

The $11.1 million beautification and safety project started in June and was originally slated to be finished this fall. However, ODOT employee Tony Synder told the council that due to delays with the railroad company’s share of the work, the project is running behind schedule.

“Our contractor follows them but it turns out the railroad ... had delays in laying the rail,” Snyder said Monday.

He also said they had to do more utility work than they had anticipated, but that paving should be done by late May or early June.

Mayor Jerry Cole said the community and council feel let down about the delays and schedule changes.

“We still haven’t seen any roadwork, and I’m increasingly frustrated,” Cole said. “I can’t express enough that the business community here in town has been very gracious to everyone, and they’re the ones still waiting.”

The project will revamp the rail line that cuts down the center of A Street. Before the project began, asphalt covered the railroad ties and left only the steel rails exposed. There was also no separation between the tracks and vehicles parked along the rails.

The project will eliminate the asphalt road surface over the track and create one-way streets on either side of the track, with curbs and gutters separating the track from driving lanes. It will also add Americans with Disabilities Act compliant sidewalks, filtered storm water collection for the roadway and new railroad and street lighting.

With the delays, Public Works Director Sue Lawrence said the city would have to consider putting in temporary lighting for the dark winter months. She estimated the cost to be around $21,000 to buy and install the temporary lights on existing CenturyLink poles.

Cole said if the project had been completed on time, the city would not be faced with that cost.

“We went from a project that was going to be three or four months and now ... it’s going to take seven months to finish the rest of it,” Cole said. “That’s double, triple the time we were originally telling everybody.”

Lawrence said the city might be able to reuse the lights elsewhere after construction, perhaps in a park, but she said more research is needed.

Several business owners at the meeting reacted strongly to news of the delays, saying it will prolong access problems during construction and undercut sales. Although they remain open, they say they have seen a decrease in business.

Susan Baker, general manager at El Tapatio restaurant, said she was happy to hear that weekend construction will cease, but business will continue to take a hit.

“We rely on people coming from Longview and Kelso and Castle Rock, and because of construction we have lost a large chunk of business,” Baker said to the council. “And now it won’t be done until June.”

Baker asked the council if there were any grants available to help local businesses. Cole told her the city would look into it.

“It will be gorgeous when it’s done, but it’s this whole timespan right now,” Baker said. “I’ve been talking to other owners and they all feel the same. ... We all understand this had to be done.”

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