Coupeville walkway projects move forward

The walkway improvements on Front Street and Main Street in Coupeville will finally happen.

After some waiting, the walkway improvements on Front Street and Main Street in Coupeville will finally happen.

During a meeting with the town council on April 9, Mayor Molly Hughes said these projects are long overdue and have been in the town’s budget for three years but had to be set aside as there were other important projects that needed to be dealt with first.

The public is invited to a meeting that will be held at 6 p.m. on May 7 at the Coupeville Recreation Hall to learn more about the projects and provide input.

Both projects together will cost a total of about $700,000, according to Public Works Director Joe Grogan, and work will begin in the fall after tourist season and be finished by the end of the year.

According to the mayor, the Washington Transportation Improvement Board combined both projects together, providing the town with grant funds that would cover 37% of the cost for each project, with the rest being covered by the town.

To Hughes and Grogan, this is unfortunate as, in other circumstances, the Main Street Sidewalk project alone could have received 95% of the funding in grants, they said at the meeting.

This union and the smaller-than-usual allocation for Main Street, Hughes said, were a result of the complexity of the Front Street boardwalk project, which is much more complex than the projects the Transportation Improvement Board is used to.

The Front Street part of the project involves about 150 feet of boardwalk that represents a safety risk as parts of it are failing. While it has been reinforced with stainless hardware as a temporary fix, the wood needs to be replaced, Grogan said, adding that boardwalks are high maintenance.

According to the current engineering estimations, Grogan said in an interview, the project might cost between $555,000 and $572,000.

Another risk, he said, lies in the location of the boardwalk, which is at the edge of a bank — the buildings stand on pilings. The new boardwalk will be “anchored” to the bank. Furthermore, the new boardwalk will have a stormwater collection system as it lacks one it its current state, which Grogan said is contributing to the erosion of the bank.

Furthermore, the new walkway will have better access for people with disabilities.

The Main Street sidewalk project will cost about $170,000, and will involve the construction of a one block sidewalk connection from Coveland Street to Front Street on the east side of Main Street.

During the meeting, Councilmember Pat Powell and some members of the public expressed concern over the lack of prior communication with the community, to which Hughes said a community meeting was already part of the plan and that the design is still unfinished.

Several community members also voiced their concerns over losing the boardwalk’s historic character, the challenge of accessing buildings during construction work and the risk of destabilizing the slope and contributing to bank erosion.

The aesthetics and material of the new boardwalk, Grogan said in the interview, have yet to be determined but are not his priority as he said he is advocating for a safe walkway that is accessible to all.

“Safety is paramount to the town,” he said. “We have elderly tourists visiting here year round and only one ADA access to the entire north sidewalk.”

The next step is to complete the design of the projects, which is currently at 75%, and start the bidding process.

The Front Street Boardwalk.