MATTAWA — It’s been a little over two years in the planning stages, but the City of Mattawa was finally able to give the thumbs up for improvements to its major thoroughfare. City Council on July 6 voted to approve recommendations from the Government Road Feasibility Study project that will widen the road with a middle turn lane, improve public safety and make the downtown area ascetically pleasing to town folk and visitors alike.
The cost of the improvements are approximately $5.7 million and could take up to 15 years to complete.
“This is going to be a good thing for the City of Mattawa,” Mayor Scott Hyndamen said. “We’ll have bike lanes and sidewalks going in — turn lanes – everything we need.”
Assistant Manager of the Port of Mattawa Lars Leland was a major player in the grassroots effort to bring the project to fruition.
“We held various workshops to elicit the communities’ wants, needs, and concerns related to the redevelopment of Government Road,” he said. “We brought in people with the WSU Rural Community Design Initiative Program who helped facilitate community input — and by doing so, make it easier to secure grant funding.”
Some improvements suggested for Government Road from State Route 243 to Boundary Avenue included adding curbs, gutters, sidewalk ramps and stop signs at several intersections.
The three main goals spurred from the workshops were attracting people from SR 243 to downtown Mattawa, safe travel for pedestrians and motorists, and an enhanced environment that would translate into a community asset.
“Our No. 1 priority was pedestrians and students. When school gets out each day you have literally 500-800 kids walking from the north side of Mattawa to the south side along Government Road, and without sidewalks on each side, its not safe at all,” Leland said. “Another high priority was ascetics like landscaping, park benches and street lights. This is our main arterial into Mattawa and we want it to be welcoming. We want people to be proud of their town — want to modernize it – right now we have dirt where there is supposed to be sidewalks. There is no traffic control for cars coming out of parking lots either – its like the old West and its time to become part of the 21st century.”
Upgrading the city’s stormwater facilities are also part of the plan as the majority of the roadway and intersections leading into it lack curbs and gutters.
“There are places that fill up with water,” Leland said. “They puddle up and cause problems like…it smells and looks bad — and of course, standing water leads to the deterioration on the roadway and sidewalks that are there.”
The plans for improvements also call for the re-zoning of commercial use on Government Road.
“One of the first things we are going to do is establish an alternate truck route that will only for allow local deliveries into the City of Mattawa,” Leland said. “We’ll re-route all other traffic.”
Hyndamen inferred that may be putting the cart before the horse. “Well…that’s a thought…but nothing is cast in stone. The trouble with getting trucks to use an alternate route is as they would come off the highway on Road 25 — which is a flat road and better to travel on in the winter verses coming up the hill off Road 24 — our main road into town — there are no turn lanes off the highway as of yet so that makes things quite dangerous. Now if the DOT wants to put in a turn lane — we can’t afford it — rerouting the commercial traffic would be very feasible.”
Hyndamen added that a lot of the commercial traffic coming off the Slope really has no need to come through Mattawa other than drivers stopping for an occasional burger or slice of pizza, so the fewer trucks utilizing Government Road, the better.
Leland said the City of Mattawa is virtually cash poor so they will look else where for the nearly $6 million needed to finance the massive project. Funding sources could include, but are not limited, to the State of Washington Transportation Improvement Board, the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG), and the Department of Commerce Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The STBG and CDBG programs are funded by the federal government and place more restrictions on the use of funds, such as requiring compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act for prevailing wages.
The City must include the Government Road improvement project in its Six-Year Transportation Improvement Plan before applying for any funding.
The start date for the capital improvements has yet to be established.
“We are not sure when funding will become available – we also have a new publics work director and we’re bringing him and city engineers up to speed on the project,” Leland said. “Once this process is complete and we know when funding is available, we’ll have a better idea on when things will begin. In the mean time, we’re hoping to we can secure some local grants from organizations like the Lions Club to pay for some of the park benches and for some Welcome to Mattawa signs.”