Main Streets are the Focal Point of a Community

Posted on Nov 30, 2015

Main Street Project in Soap LakeThe main street "is the focal point of a community," says Kent Andersen, the mayor of Royal City. Raymond Gravelle, mayor of Soap Lake agrees: "In small, rural communities like Soap Lake, the main street defines the town."

"People drive through and look at a community," Andersen adds, "and make a judgement of the city based on what they see."

Soap Lake repaved their main street, Main Avenue, last year starting in May, and the project ended in December. They dedicated the new lane on June 6th, 2015. "There was dancing in the street," Gravelle says. "It was a great celebration time for us."

Main Avenue, which is perpendicular to Highway 17, was repaved because, according to Gravelle, it was in terrible disrepair. The aging sewer lines were also replaced. The paving, which covered 1,800 feet, cost $2.4 million, Gravelle explains. Part of the money came from the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) and some from a Strategic Infrastructure Program (SIP) grant with the help of Grant County Economic Development Council. "We wouldn't have been able to do the project without that money," Gravelle says.

Gravelle adds that matching funds came from the city. A 50-foot flagpole was paid for partially by citizen donations, Gravelle says. In less than 90 days, $6,000 was raised. And, Gravelle proudly points out that Soap Lake is the second city in the county to install LED street lighting.

"This represents the most significant improvement to the town in fifty years," Gravelle says. He says already the city has seen more tourists walking on the extra-wide sidewalks. The project lasted more than two and a half years, according to Gravelle. The City Council appointed a steering committee for downtown which met every month and took citizen input.

Royal City is hoping to start their repaving project next spring, according to Andersen. It depends on funding if they can start that early. The impetus for their improvement was that the water pipes under the street, Camelia Street, are over fifty years old, and were used when installed. There are a number of reasons to replace the pipes, Andersen explains, including that on the east end of the street they are as small as two-inches. That is where Royal City would like industry to locate, and to do that, they need to be able to supply enough water both for the industry and to put out a fire, Andersen says. Because the water pipes need to be replaced, that will require repaving the street. Royal City also did an SIP grant through the EDC and are hoping for a TIB grant. But the city is paying a lot out of its reserves, Andersen says. The city is paying 50% of the waterline costs, he adds.

Along with the repaving of the street, sidewalks will be installed where there are now "virtually none," Andersen explains.

Lars Leland, who works for the Port of Mattawa, is leading the effort to repave the main street in that city, Government Road. "We're crunching away at it now," Leland says, "working on it pretty hard." Leland is a volunteer and says that, "I love the area and want to see it grow." Mattawa needs to repave their main street, according to Leland, because it's a very old road and hasn't been adapted to the growth the city has experienced. Leland says Mattawa's population went from around 300 to 3,000 in the time he's lived there. There are potholes and the city needs sidewalks, Leland explains. And because of congestion, the street needs to be widened to "county specs," Leland adds. He says in the morning, the backup at the traffic circle at Highway 243 can be up to a quarter of a mile long.

This project is in the early stages. The county provided an "outreach grant" for the initial work which is meeting with stakeholders to see what they want. Leland is hoping the entire project will be paid for by grants. The EDC helped Leland apply for an SIP grant that helped pay for planning. Leland is hoping to "break dirt" in three to four years. "It's a pretty big project," he says. But "it's very important," he says, because there's over thirty businesses on that street plus the city hall, fire department, post office and health district. Another major concern is pedestrian safety, Leland explains, especially for kids walking to school. According to Leland, in the morning a thousand school children will be crossing the street and in the afternoon they'll cross back. They're going to install proper sidewalks and lighting, Leland says. He thinks the project will cost $2.5 million per mile and will cover three-quarters of a mile.

To help pay for the repaving, the city increased the sales tax by 0.2 cents, Leland explains. Leland says the city wants to make sure everyone knows all that money is going to the repaving.