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Engineering firm holds public meeting for South First Street project

Representatives from Gray & Osborne were on hand last night at the Sunnyside Community Center along with city staff to discuss with local residents ideas concerning improvements to the South First Street area in Sunnyside.

Former Sunnyside City Manager Dave Fonfara was instrumental in obtaining $1.4 million from the Federal Highway Administration for making improvements to the South First Street area. Sen. Patty Murray was key in helping the city obtain the funding.

"We are in the concept phase," said Paul Soboleski, who is overseeing the upgrade project for Gray & Osborne.

Soboleski said the purpose of last night's meeting, and two others coming up later this summer, is to receive input from local citizens on what they would like to see the South First Street project look like. Soboleski said both the city and Gray & Osborne want to receive public input so people are comfortable and like what they see once the project is complete.

"Let's give people what they want," said Soboleski. "We are not here to design something and shove it down everybody's throat."

Soboleski encourages people to come out for the next two meetings and offer input on the project.

"Come on out and take a look," said Soboleski. "Tell us what you think."

Gray & Osborne is also scheduled to make a report to the Sunnyside City Council on the status of the project later this month.

Once completed, the South First Street project is expected to cost between $2 and $2.5 million. The basic scope of the project includes laying down asphalt pavement, constructing cement curbs, gutters and sidewalks and encapsulating a Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District drainage ditch in the area.

Soboleski said Gray & Osborne is also looking for public input on what kind of traffic signals the community wants in the area. The project calls for placing a signal light or roundabout at the South First Street/South Hill Road and South First Street/Lincoln Avenue intersections. Soboleski said the signal issue will be determined during the course of the project.

The South First Street improvement project is a needed one, said Soboleski. There is a growing traffic problem in the area, which includes traffic coming on and off of Interstate 82.

Gray & Osborne conducted traffic counts for a week during March and May. The traffic counts show about 9,000 cars per day on average going up and down South Hill Road with peak hours being between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. A little less than 9,000 vehicles per day travel back and forth along Lincoln Avenue.

"It is just going to get worse," said Soboleski. "We are looking at a problem."

Based on a 2 percent population growth in the next five years, Soboleski is expecting the traffic counts to double by 2009 in those areas.

There have also been numerous vehicle accidents in the past six years. In the areas along South First Street and South Hill Road there were 25 accidents. In the area along South First Street and Lincoln Avenue during the same time period there were 10 accidents.

Soboleski said with the growing traffic issues it is important the city make the improvements to South First Street now.

There are no engineering designs in the works right now, said Soboleski. The point of the three public meetings is to receive public input to start the design phase. Soboleski is expecting to have some sort of design concept in hand by the end of the last public meeting. Starting in the fall or early winter a lot of behind the scenes work will begin on the road improvement project. A majority of the winter work will involve encapsulating the drainage ditch, said Soboleski.

The rough time line has construction starting in March and finishing up by the end of fall next year.

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

Michael Kantman/Daily Sun News

Jay Spurlock (L) talks with Sunnyside Public Works Superintendent Ken Ott (C) and Paul Soboleski of Gray & Osborne (R). The three men are overlooking some different plans Gray & Osborne engineering firm brought with them last night to a community meeting to discuss the South First Street improvement project.

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