• 59°

City gets a jump on downtown streetscape project

The City of Washington moved forward with the plan to revamp Main Street on Monday, a few days ahead of schedule.

The streetscape project was slated to begin Wednesday, but a good-weather window combined with many downtown shops shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19 determined the work would start earlier than expected.

“Right now, they’re doing some milling work, removing the asphalt on the roadway to access the utilities they’ll be replacing,” said Jonathan Russell, Washington’s city manager. “The majority of that is in the roadway. … The sidewalks will still be open.”

OVERSIGHT: Washington City Manager Jonathan Russell (left) and Public Works Director Adam Waters (right) observe as Phase I of the West Main Street streetscape project was rolled out on Monday. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

The street, from the intersection of West Main and Gladden Street/Stewart Parkway to the intersection of West Main and Market streets will remain closed as the city upgrades with stormwater-line and water-line replacements and moves overhead power lines underground. After the utilities work is completed, sidewalks will be reworked to create “a better pedestrian experience,” which includes widening the sidewalks and removing 11 parking spots along the north side of West Main Street. The project is estimated to take approximately seven months.

While the project is designed to ultimately improve pedestrian access to shops and restaurants, the timing of the work to be done was a point of resistance for some downtown merchants. However, since many merchants are now required to cease operation on state order — or for restaurants, transition from in-house dining to delivery and takeout — the construction will be less intrusive.

“The precautionary moves being made to be able to protect people from the virus

work to our advantage,” Russell said. “We’re excited to see it get started and are looking forward to the finished project. Hopefully, the timing of everything will be favorable, and we want everyone to patient. We’re very excited about the finished product.”

The City of Washington has added a page to its website, washingtonnc.gov/streetscape, where more information about the streetscape project can be found, including its scope and timeline, as well as information specific to downtown business owners/residents.