EVERETT — Four downtown blocks of Rucker Avenue are getting a facelift this summer, and that will make for traffic hassles in the short term and fewer lanes in the future.
Trees will soon line the corridor’s sidewalk and center median, in an effort to create a more park-like atmosphere and encourage people to stick around.
The city hopes a more walkable environment will spur more redevelopment on Rucker. The area has become more residential with the addition of two large apartment buildings, Library Place and Aero Apartments.
“An increase in residential population keeps the downtown alive longer at night and on weekends,” said Ryan Sass, director of public works.
The plan is to tear out the road and sidewalks on Rucker between Pacific and Everett avenues and redesign parts of the thoroughfare, adding street trees and modifying intersections to be more pedestrian friendly. There also will be one fewer lane heading in each direction on Rucker north of Hewitt in the affected area.
“Every downtown needs green space, it’s so much more inviting,” said Dana Oliver, executive director of the Downtown Everett Association. “People are more likely to linger and we know that’s good for businesses and downtown.”
A stretch of Hoyt Avenue received similar treatment in 2011.
The massive tear-up is needed because the city is accomplishing two tasks at the same time. Crews also will be replacing an aging cast iron water main line underneath Rucker.
Work is expected to start this week. The city is also tackling a block of Hoyt, between Pacific Avenue and Wall Street, along with a short stretch on Wall and California streets.
The projects are estimated to cost about $9.6 million, of which a little less than half is coming from state grants. The city is funding the rest.
Rucker is envisioned by the city as the core of the downtown residential neighborhood where substantial redevelopment is expected to occur.
Recent counts found about 14,000 cars pass down Rucker each weekday. The city hopes the redesign will discourage pass-through traffic down the street. Timing of traffic signals will also dissuade this, according to the city’s 2009 downtown streetscape plan, which is guiding the project.
The two-lane left turn lanes already at Pacific are intended to funnel vehicles not wanting to stop downtown onto West Marine View Drive.
At Pacific, the design of Rucker will remain similar, with two travel lanes and parking on each side of the avenue. Trees will be added to a center median, which will have left turn pockets at intersections.
Medians help control the speed of vehicles, said Tom Hood, a senior engineer working on the streetscape project.
Farther north, starting at Hewitt Avenue, the five-lane arterial will shed a lane in each direction. And here the parallel parking will become angled parking on both sides.
The Rucker renewal plan also calls for curb bulbs to be installed at each intersection. These extend the sidewalk into the parking lane to narrow the roadway for people on foot.
“Curb bulbs shorten the crossing distance and improves the visibility of pedestrians to the driver,” Sass said.
Mid-block crossings for pedestrians, lighting and street furniture — such as trash cans, planters and benches — will also be added to the street.
The city estimates it will take about seven months to replace the pavement and sidewalks.
The goal is to get much of the work, including replacing pavement and sidewalks, done this year, Sass said.
Landscaping could carry over into next year.
The project will be done in three phases, starting with the two most northern blocks of Rucker and one block of Hoyt (between Pacific and Wall). These portions will be closed to cars.
Vehicles will be routed to West Marine View Drive via Everett and Pacific.
Businesses will remain open. To ensure access, a temporary asphalt walkway will be constructed. Part of the agreement with the contractor includes a liaison to be a direct line of contact for affected businesses.
“We recognize it’s a very disruptive and painful process,” Sass said.
W Marine View Drive, Grand Avenue, Colby Avenue, Wetmore Avenue, Rockefeller Avenue, Oakes Avenue, Lombard Avenue, Broadway, Everett Avenue, Hewitt Avenue and Pacific Avenue are also slated for similar improvements, according to the city’s streetscape plan.