1st Ave Chronicles, Pt. 2: “Undergrounding” Work Begins Soon

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by Ralph Nichols

Preliminary work on the second phase of Burien’s First Avenue South Improvement Project – the relocation of water lines – is now under way.

Major roadwork may begin before the end of October, according to city Public Works Director Larry Blanchard.

The good news for local motorists is that phase two shouldn’t last nearly as long as did the first phase of major upgrades to First Avenue.

For one thing, the scope of phase two is smaller. The roadway will be rebuilt from S/SW 146th St. to S/SW 140th St., compared to a 14-block stretch in phase one.

And a different team is in charge of the project for the city this time around. In addition to Blanchard, Mike Martin is now city manager and Brian Victor, who was not involved with the first phase, is project manager.

“Our hope is that by the start of next summer, everything will be wrapped up,” Blanchard said.

The total cost of phase two – which will include undergrounding of utility lines, installation of sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and drainage system work – is budgeted at about $6 million.

Water District 20 started moving some water lines along the project route last month to make room for some of the utility undergrounding to be done by Seattle City Light, Qwest and Comcast.

“We still have to collect SCL’s portion of funding for undergrounding,” Blanchard said. “We’re working with them now to get their share of the costs under our interlocal agreement. But we have the construction funding now.”

Bids are expected to be called for in early August, opened in early September, with the contract awarded in late September and actual work beginning about 30 days later.

This worker was photographed last year at the 4th Ave SW site by Scott Schaefer, who calls this "Marlboro Man's Day Job."

“One thing that we’re looking at is very, very tight control of the project schedule,” Blanchard continued. “That’s typically where you run into trouble when these projects get behind. So we’ll be paying close attention to work progress and the contractor’s schedule.”

He said the city “will be in close contact with businesses” along the construction corridor, and if traffic flow has to be modified they will close down one lane at a time rather than tearing up the whole street.

“We know the impact on traffic, but we will try to minimize it as much as possible. We will work very, very closely with the property owners.”

Phase three of the First Avenue South Improvement Project, from S/SW 140th to 128th streets, is included in the city’s 2011 capital budget, Blanchard said. The work will probably be done in 2012-13.

The final phase, from S/SW 128th to S/SW 116th streets, is expected to be done in 2014-15.

Phase four funding will come from a combination of sources – the city, the state Transportation Improvement Board, and federal highway dollars.

“That’s what I’m busy going after now,” Blanchard said.

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5 Responses to “1st Ave Chronicles, Pt. 2: “Undergrounding” Work Begins Soon”
  1. Coverofnight says:

    Let’s just hope that the contractor for the first Phase is disqualified from bidding on this and future work phases!

  2. Toby says:

    Why doesnt the city finsh what was started before adding more of a mess of 1st ave?

    When are they planning on finshing the 1st phase??

  3. Ann says:

    “We still have to collect SCL’s portion of funding for undergrounding,” Blanchard said.

    This is a misleading statement by Blanchard. “We” does not mean the city of Burien – it means you!!

    Look at you Seattle City Light bill – there is a charge for ‘1st Ave South 1 Underground’. I recently emailed the city to ask if there would be a ‘1st Ave South 2 Underground’ (and others as they expect to have 5 phases).

    This is Larry Blanchard’s response to me:
    “With respect to the fee collection by Seattle City Light, the Seattle City Council determines the method of collecting/recouping the undergrounding costs in projects of this type. Consequently, we are not able to provide a definitive answer to your question. Nevertheless, it seems likely that either the monthly fee will increase as each undergrounding portion of the total project is completed, or the fee collection will continue until the electrical undergrounding costs have been repaid. However, the best way to obtain a definitive answer to this question is to contact Stephen Byers from Seattle City Light @ (206)684-3637. ”

    From his response, I believe we can expect to pay much more for who knows how many years.

  4. Stan says:

    The more I learn of this make shift city`s deceitful ploys the more I want to move the heck out of here. This so called council really needs to go, Whats wrong with 1st ave from 144th to 128th that is such dire need of repair anyways? The council members live close by it? When is the next “town” meeting?
    I`m going to try and make it so I can ask these court jesters what gives them the right to just decide all this stuff without approval????
    What we need to do it change a few by-laws and take that authority away from them and leave it up to the majority of the voters to decide whats best for this make shift city rather than just a few folks without much of a clue obviously.

    • Michael says:

      The next City Council meeting is Monday, July 19th from 7-9 PM at the Library/City Hall on 152nd Street. They use the 1st floor meeting room just across the main hall from the library entrance.

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