Tacoma’s Fern Hill neighborhood will be the first to benefit from the city’s new dedicated street-repair fund.
The City Council last week unanimously approved a plan to spend up to $1.6 million to repave about 22 blocks of residential streets in an area roughly bordered by South 84th Street, South 91st Street, South M Street and South Fawcett Avenue.
The plan also will extend storm sewers, make spot repairs to sanitary sewers and replace curb ramps to ensure they adhere to federal disabled-access requirements.
It will be the first project paid for from $175 million in new taxes and fees city voters’ approved in November. Some surveying work has been done in the area, and heavy equipment should move in in the next few weeks.
“It’s a big deal for that community,” said City Councilman Joe Lonergan, who represents District 5, which includes Fern Hill. “It’s been a long time coming.”
It’s been a long time coming.
Joe Lonergan, Tacoma City Council
Fern Hill’s good fortune likely will generate questions about which neighborhood is next on the city’s 10-year timeline to improve driving, biking and walking conditions in residential areas.
Those answers still are being formulated, said Kurtis Kingsolver, Tacoma’s public works director and city engineer.
City engineers are trying to coordinate work with other utilities, including the water department and cable companies. That way, all utility improvements can take place at one time to minimize the impact on neighborhoods, Kingsolver said.
That’s proving a challenge, he said.
“The utilities didn’t have money in their budgets to do a bunch of work right away,” Kingsolver said. “They don’t necessarily plan out that far ahead.”
The city hopes to have its list of 2017 projects identified soon and posted on the city website next month, he said.
Kingsolver declined to give any hints about which neighborhood might be next, saying he didn’t want to give false hope.
Still, city officials are celebrating the kickoff of the work in Fern Hill.
22 Number of residential blocks to be repaired with $1.6 million project
Councilman Ryan Mello called it “really significant.”
“Not only will 22 blocks of residential streets in South Tacoma and Fern Hill area get redone and be smooth again, but also we’re being smart with our investments,” he said. “This is exactly what we promised voters in November.”
City officials have said they intend to combine voter-approved money with $150 million from other sources for a total of $325 million for residential street repair.
The city started collecting revenue from the new sources April 1.
John Morris has lived in the Fern Hill area for about 15 years. He said last week he’s already seen survey crews in the neighborhood.
His home borders on South 88th Street, which turns into a rutted mess where it intersects with South J Street.
“It’s been patch, patch, patch,” Morris said. “You get a pretty good beating if you don’t slow down there at J Street.
“I cannot wait for the work to begin.”