Since construction on the Stadium Way project began 13 months ago, the citys goal has been getting the thoroughfare reopened in time for the start of the 2013 school year.
It looks like theyre going to make it but just barely.
The closed signs on Stadium Way are scheduled to come down at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Thats just 14 hours before 1,642 students at Stadium High School show up for the first day of classes.
We were always shooting for that, said the citys project manager, Mark DAndrea. Its a major thoroughfare, and we really wanted to get it open.
The project wont be completely finished when it opens to traffic Tuesday. Pedestrians wont be allowed on the broad new sidewalks until railings are installed later in the month. The new trees and shrubs wont be in yet, and neither will the benches at the scenic overlooks.
But the street will be open to cars and school buses, and that was important to the Tacoma School District.
Stadium High officials were ready with a contingency plan to detour buses, just in case, but are greatly relieved that wont be necessary, school district spokeswoman Elle Warmuth said. From a bus standpoint, it was especially important, she said. Its faster and means less idling and less travel time.
The new Stadium Way features a resurfaced roadway, plenty of room for walkers and bicycles, ornamental lighting, planters and a rain garden.
But most important, DAndrea said, is whats not visible.
Stadium Way was sinking into the hillside, he said. It was built on old fill that was 100-feet thick in some areas. It was never an engineered fill. People were just dumping stuff there.
Construction required a massive stabilization effort, including seven retaining walls, pumping a concrete-type slurry into the ground to fill voids and sinking 3-foot-in-diameter stone columns to stop slumping.
Getting the street opened in time for school took some extra hustle, DAndrea said. The general contractor, Ceccanti Inc., put its crews on 10-hour shifts in early August and they worked through one weekend. Crews worked on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, he said, but were able to take Sunday and Monday off.
School officials arent the only ones pleased with the reopening.
Denny Faker, business manager for the Stadium Historic Business District, is ecstatic.
Its terrific. Its fantastic, he said. Stadium Way is the gateway to the Stadium District and one of the gateways from the freeway. The businesses up here, especially the retail businesses, were really hurting during construction.
Faker owns the North Slope Coffee House on North First Street, and he says he lost income throughout the 13 months of construction.
North First Street just turned into a ghost street, Faker said. Ive just been holding my breath.
He had nothing but praise for the citys and Ceccantis efforts to accommodate businesses during construction, and he loves what hes seen of the result.
Were going to have a real nice, new street thats walkable, Faker said.
Theres going to be a bike path. Its going to be clean and new and well-lit, and itll have a view, too. I just couldnt ask for anything more, I really couldnt.
Working with the city throughout the planning and construction phases left him with a new appreciation for collaboration, he said.
I know it sounds like Im kissing butt, he said, but the city was great to work with. They gave us a real position at the table.
Fakers advice for other business groups dealing with city construction: Get involved early and let them know what you want. Dont wait around to see what they do and then gripe about it.
The construction portion of the project cost slightly more than $10 million. With design, engineering and other associated costs, the total came to $13 million. Most of that cost $8.3 million was covered by a Federal Highway Administration grant. A state transportation improvement grant covered another $1.2 million.
The city picked up the remaining tab about $3.5 million with various public works and utility funds and real estate excise tax revenues dedicated to capital projects.
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693