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Initial steps taken on Woodburn's First Street Improvement Project, which aims for November, 2019, completion

PNG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Removal of several fuel-storage tanks at the former Centro Gas & Market was instrumental in getting First Street improvements underway.The first steps toward an improved First Street in Woodburn kicked into gear last week as the city unfolded improvement projects on schedule.

Initial First Street Improvement Project activity involved removal of dozens of trees along the downtown First Street route between Cleveland and Harrison streets. Another peripheral, but vital, activity involved removing several fuel-storage tanks at the former filling station, Centro Gas & Market, located on the northeast corner of First and Garfield streets.COURTESY OF THE CITY OF WOODBURN - Removal of several fuel-storage tanks at the former Centro Gas & Market was instrumental in getting First Street improvements underway.

Completion of those chores means First Street improvement work sets forth in earnest and appears primed to meet its projected November, 2019, completion date.

"We are on schedule to this point," said Woodburn Economic Development Director Jamie Johnk. "We anticipate being completely done with the tank removal next week. It's an old gas station, but the tanks were actually in pretty good condition; they did identify some residual contaminant, but it looks like it will be easy to remove."

The gas-tank removal was actually a precursor to the overall First Street project, something that needed to be done before getting started. The tanks were pulled from the ground and hauled out on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Johnk said the city is working with the Department of Environmental Quality to finish the cleanup undertaking.

Reports show that the city discussed removal of the tanks with property owner Karen Frackowiak as part of mandated environmental mitigation procedures. The owner did not have financial means for the remediation, and the city needed it completed before the First Street project could proceed.

The tank removal cost $36,000: $27,785 for a contract with Pacific Northern Environmental Company, DBA Cowlitz Clean Sweep, to remove the tanks; $8,215 for a DEQ review. The city received an $18,000 matching grant from Business Oregon's Brownfields Redevelopment to cover half that cost.

PNG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Tree removal initiates Woodburns First Street Improvement Project. Planting replacement trees will be one of the projects final tasks.

Tree removal & replacement

A crew began cutting down trees on the First Street side of the city-hall block on Monday and worked its way north.

City Administrator Scott Derickson said consulting arborists evaluated every tree along the First Street corridor last July, and Woodburn Public Works reviewed their report.

"Many of the trees are in poor health while others are damaging public sidewalks, causing American with Disabilities Act (ADA) liability concerns and trip hazards," Derickson said. "Another issue addressed by the project is the recommendation that the city diversify the species of trees downtown in order to reduce the risk of disease related loss. This is how trees were designated for removal and replacement as part of the First Street Project.

"The City always replaces trees when they are removed."PNG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Tree removal initiates Woodburns First Street Improvement Project. Planting replacement trees will be one of the projects final tasks.

Johnk said tree removal on the city hall block was necessary to get the project off the ground. Replacement trees will be of a columnar variety, inclined to grow vertically rather than growing horizontally or bushing out.

Moreover, the project calls for a system to water the newly-planted trees underground, especially during dry periods, to encourage a deeper root growth, rather than wider-reaching, sidewalk-impinging growth.

"Engineers were able to work with the consultants to save some trees," Johnk said, citing trees in the Woodburn Public Library block as examples. "Other trees were either in poor health or just wrong for the downtown core area."

Woodburn City Council and residents weighed in on the extend of tree removal as well.

"Based on community survey results, the arborist's analysis and council deliberation, the council modified the First Street design in order to preserve the (library block) maple trees," Derickson said. "Generally, it was the council's hope the new and diversified trees will mitigate the impact of replacing the trees being removed as part of the project."

The overall construction and improvement work will be completed before the new trees are planted.

"Planting the new trees will probably be the last thing we do," Woodburn Public Works City Engineer Dago Garcia said.

Traffic & event accommodations

First Street project team members stressed that none of the traditional downtown Woodburn events or activities – such as Music in the Park, Big Taste of Woodburn, Fiesta Mexicana Parade – will be hampered by the construction.

"All normally scheduled events will take place as usual," Johnk said. "Contractors have been advised of this and will work their schedules around accommodating those events."

Planners also expect minimal inconvenience to pedestrians and motorists.

"We plan to keep one side of the street open at any given time," Johnk said. "The plan is to keep traffic flowing during the project."

Johnk added that the sidewalk work will include bulb-out features at intersections, per ADA requirements, but they are not expected to be as protrusive as the Front Street ones.

Competitive bids

Garcia said the city received 8 bids for the First Street Improvement Project, which is a higher-than-usual number.

In a report to Woodburn City Council, the staff recommended on Monday, Feb. 25, that the project be awarded to Pacific Excavation, Inc., whose $3,688,000 bid was the lowest of the 8 and was about 5-percent lower than the engineer's project estimate of $3,868,157.

Other project bids ranged from $3,859,444 to $4,902,902.

The project aims to entail streetscape improvements from Oak to Harrison streets, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and crosswalks, enhanced lighting, foliage improvements, benches, new signs, trash receptacles, a Second Street parking lot behind the post office and alley improvements from Cleveland to Garfield streets.

Open House

Woodburn will host a First Street Improvement Project Open House at two times, 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 at the City Library, 280 Garfield St.

Downtown residents, business owners and operators and anyone interested in, or with questions about, the project are encouraged to drop in. City officials plan to have a couple of more open houses while the project is underway.

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