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Rain and cold weather cause slight streetscape delay

City of Washington Public Works Director Adam Waters couldn’t talk long. He was headed to Main Street to take the asphalt temperature.

Waters wasn’t looking for COVID-19 symptoms, instead checking to see how warm the surface was so paving could continue.

Main Street was scheduled to re-open to automobile traffic Friday afternoon, but won’t until Tuesday as part of the celebration to activate the holiday lights downtown.

The intersections with Market, Respess and Gladden Street will be open Friday, allowing motorists to cross Main Street going north and south.

The ribbon-cutting scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday is still on and the family of late mayor Mac Hodges will still take the first drive down Main Street as scheduled. The only difference is that other drivers will have to wait four days to make the same trip.

“Last week’s rain set us back a couple of days and it’s been too cold to pave,” Waters said. “Everybody has waited for seven and a half months, so hopefully four days won’t make that much difference. It’s gone very well for a project of this size and we want to make sure we finish it properly. I know folks are excited for the street to be open again and so are we. We just want to make sure everything is done right before we reopen it.”

The $3.4 million project started on April 1 and will end just before Thanksgiving with two-thirds of the work going on underground.

Local construction company B.E. Singleton and Sons dug up a three block stretch from Market to Gladden Street to replace and expand water and sewer pipes, some of which dated back to 1909 according to Waters. They also buried the electrical lines and rebuilt the street surface.

That paved the way for new wider sidewalks with tan bricks, decorative planters, benches, new lampposts, newly planted trees and other landscaping.

“We are excited to welcome back our customers who we haven’t seen in a while,” Russell Smith, of Russell’s Men Shop on Main Street. “The new streetscape will look fantastic when it’s finished and will give all our downtown merchants a tremendous boost going into the holiday season. All of us require masks to enter and have plenty of hand sanitizer, so it’s safe to come back to downtown. We’re hoping everyone will shop local and experience the personal service you can’t get on the internet.”

The streetscape planning and design began in 2016 after the city council, led by mayor Hodges, approved the funding. The city adopted the master plan in 2017, approved the design last year and awarded the contract to Singleton in March.

“Mayor Mac initiated this project years ago because he knew it would be good for Washington,” Waters said. “He knew it was time to replace the pipes and expand the underground drainage and really pushed for the above ground upgrades to help downtown continue to grow. We all wish he was here to see the finished product.”

It’s not like Waters’ schedule is clear after next week. Dealing with drainage challenges in the medical district, a sewer rehab project in Runyon Creek and getting the new police station project started top the list.

“This project was a long time coming and I’m proud of the effort that everyone gave,” Waters said. “I’m relieved that it’s almost over and we’ll be ready for the next one after a little rest.”