The Tacoma City Council on Tuesday formally accepted nearly $4 million in state and federal public works grants – the final funding pieces needed to cover the city’s long-planned Pacific Avenue Streetscape project downtown.
“This is the last bit of money we need, and it will help us do a lot of important things,” Councilman Ryan Mello said before Tuesday’s council meeting.
The planned improvements span from Old City Hall at 7th Street to the Tacoma Art Museum at 17th Street. The upgrades include new street paving, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and crosswalks. Designs also incorporate new rain gardens, plantings, lighting, public art and signs to direct visitors to various attractions.
The project is expected to be completed in December 2013.
Grants accepted Tuesday include $3 million from the state’s public works board and $978,300 from the Federal Highways Administration.
Combined with $4.4 million in grants and local matches already secured for the project, the city now can seek bids for construction.
“We’ll be looking to advertise for bids in July and award a contract and start work by the fall,” city spokeswoman Karrie Spitzer said.
Tacoma officials have said project construction and any related street closures will be rolled out in stages and publicized in advance to minimize impacts to traffic and businesses as much as possible.
The improvements to Pacific Avenue – what some council members have described as downtown’s “front porch” – have been hailed by some stakeholders as a long overdue project that will help retain and attract business and welcome visitors.
“Almost every major off-ramp to Tacoma leads you to Pacific Avenue,” Mello said. “Having that first impression of our city being a very positive one is really important -– not only for how visitors think of us but how we think of ourselves.”
City officials had envisioned the Streetscape’s completion by the end of 2012. But finding money proved trickier than first thought amid the recession and government budget-slashing, they’ve said.
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, helped the city find and secure much of the funding.
A second phase of the project – improvements to Hood Street, the Prairie Line Trail and Tollefson Plaza – remain unfunded and unscheduled.