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Street rebuild prompts concern in Coupeville

Starting this June, North Main Street from Third Street to Front Street in Coupeville will be closed during the day for five months.

That will allow construction crews to replace and repave the roadway, add bike lanes and sidewalks, and enclose the street’s stormwater drainage system.

However, the project has some townspeople concerned that it will hurt local businesses this summer.

“This is going to kill us,” said LuAnne Origer, manager of Anna’s Tea Room, which is located right next to the Methodist Church on Main Street. “We’re barely staying alive and this summer was our big hope.”

She said her business has been struggling the past two years and she hoped this summer would be a breakout season.

Origer and other business owners were some of approximately 40 people at the Coupeville Recreation Hall Thursday evening who commented on the proposed project.

During the construction period, traffic is expected to be detoured onto Haller Street and funneled down to Front Street.

“The detour is so out of the way, I don’t think anyone is going to bother going up Main Street,” Origer said.

She understood the need for the project but it comes at a bad time and would have liked to see more done to minimize the impact, perhaps by segmenting the project. That would allow more of the street to remain open during the construction period.

Jack Lamy, owner of the Mad Crab restaurant on Front Street, said he would have liked the construction project to be started earlier in the year.

That way it would have less of an impact on his summer business. The money earned during the summer helps him get through the slow winter months, he said.

Conard said that because the construction is weather dependent, it has to be done during the summer months and completed by the end of October.

Lamy also said the town should have done more to improve Front Street. He argued that the street is in worse condition than Main Street.

Conard admitted that Front Street is in bad shape, however, the federal grant allows only for construction on arterials.

She added that measures are going to be taken to help minimize the impacts to local businesses.

Signs will be placed at the intersection of Main Street and Third Street. Conard said that putting such signs on Highway 20 could discourage tourists from visiting the town.

Throughout the detour, signs will also be placed along Haller Street showing where Main Street businesses are located.

Some of the available parking will be affected during the construction period. Front Street parking from Haller to Main Street will be closed.

Conard said that action is needed to allow for the increased traffic to maneuver.

“We need a safer avenue to get through there,” Conard said.

Conard admitted that it’s a huge project that will affect the businesses owners and the community. She pointed out that while the road will be closed during weekday work hours it will remain open evenings and weekends.

“It’s kind of like remodeling your house and living in it,” Conard said.

Another business owner saw the need for the project.

David Binder, who co-owns the Anchorage Inn along with his wife, Town Councilwoman Dianne Binder, said that the ditch in front of his bed and breakfast has been eroding and washing away in recent years.

To deal with the construction, he is notifying guests about the project and where to park. Should visitors have to park away from his business, he will figure out a way to transport their luggage.

Janice Vaughan, manager of Whidbey Island Bank on Main Street, said she was concerned that the construction would hurt the drive-through bank window business, but she had received assurances that a flagger will help direct traffic in and out of the bank.

The construction project is estimated to cost the town $800,000, but most of that will be paid for with a $600,000 federal grant.

“It’s great because almost all of the project is paid for by money that isn’t ours,” said Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard.

Even though the stormwater drainage system will be enclosed, the power lines lining the street will remain. Conard said burying the lines would have been too spendy right now but conduits are going to be placed to allow for that in the future.

While some business owners are concerned about the livelihood of their stores, others are concerned about specifics of the project.

Buell Neidlinger, a Coupeville resident whose term on the Coupeville Planning Commission recently expired, questioned why there hasn’t been more public involvement in the process.

Conard said that every aspect of the project has gone before the town council and that the Thursday evening open house provided an opportunity for public comment on the project.

Ken Pickard, a Coupeville attorney, said the project will give the town a more modern look and he would prefer that the street remain the same.

Conard will bring a proposal before the town council April 13 on whether to authorize putting the project out to bid.

She said that she wants to hold another public meeting about the project in May. That way a contractor will be on board and able to work with the residents and business owners to minimize traffic impacts during the project.

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