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S'side making progress towards S. First Street expansion

The city of Sunnyside has reached purchase agreements with 60 to 70 percent of the landowners along South First Street in preparation for a street widening project from the I-82 interchange to Lincoln Avenue.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said Sunnyside is buying small strips of land from some property owners along South First in order to accommodate the project.

Plans call for a roundabout to be constructed at the intersection of South First Street and South Hill Road, as well as two travel lanes and a turn lane on South First.

Public Works Director Jim Bridges confirmed South First will also receive improved curb, gutter and sidewalks, as well as new street lighting. Upgrades will also include the traffic signal at South First and Lincoln Avenue, where new traffic lights will be installed. Bridges said all told there will be about a mile of street improvements.

But to get there, the city must purchase portions of land from 42 homeowners along South First Street.

In keeping with state laws, the city contracted with a third party-Yakima County-to carry out fair market appraisals on the strips of land, which vary from three to 15-feet long.

Based on those appraisals, Stockwell said property owners are being offered between $2 and $5 per square foot. He said agreements arranged to date vary from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on whether the property sits in a residential or commercial zone.

With about two-thirds of the property owners reaching agreement with the city, Stockwell said one of the tasks to be done with most of the remaining land owners it to settle landscaping costs.

Stockwell said if a property owner has landscaping in place, such as trees or fencing, on land the city needs to buy, then the city will provide compensation. If the landscaping sits on public right-of-way, there will be no compensation, he added.

The city hopes to have agreements on all the land it needs for the street widening plan in time for the project to be bid out to contractors this winter.

Stockwell said the optimal timeframe would be for construction to begin in March or April of 2007 and conclude by end of next year.

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