Major construction finally ends on Pioneer Way project

Matt Graham of Bellingham-based S&S Concrete works on one of the last unfinished sections of sidewalk on SE Pioneer Way Monday. - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Matt Graham of Bellingham-based S&S Concrete works on one of the last unfinished sections of sidewalk on SE Pioneer Way Monday.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor's downtown road project hit what many felt like was the home stretch this week when crews began work on the last sections of uncompleted sidewalk.

The weather cooperated Monday and Bellingham-based S&S Concrete was able to knock out all but about two small areas. They were expected to finish up Tuesday, marking the end of major construction.

For merchants, it comes as a huge sigh of relief. SE Pioneer Way has for nearly nine months been the scene of dusty roads and rumbling heavy equipment. More still needs to be done, but this feels like the end, said Downtown Merchant's Association President Ron Apgar.

He's also pleased with the new look of the historic shopping district.

"I love it, and the merchants love it," Apgar said.

Now it's just a matter of waiting for customers to realize that construction is pretty much done and that downtown is once again easily accessible.

"I think it's going to take some time," he said.

The project began this past March when officials broke ground near Dock Street. Work proceeded rapidly for several months and it looked like it would be largely finished by September as planned.

However, work came to a screeching halt in June when Native American remains were found in front of Mike's Mini Mart and Oak Harbor Tavern. The project has since been bogged down with state permitting and archaeological work.

According to Larry Cort, project manager for the city, finishing touches, such as the installation of benches, garbage cans, signs, potted plants and some site cleaning still needs to be done. That work should begin after the first of the year and take about one week, he said.

After that, all that remains is to take down overhead utility lines. The last property owners are expected to hook up to the new underground utilities by mid January but it's unclear when the actual poles will come down.

Cort said it's a matter of scheduling with the utility companies to come out and remove them and that it could be March or later before the work is done.

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