Roadwork to revitalize N. First Street begins next year

Roadwork to revitalize N. First Street begins next year

YAKIMA, Wash.-- You'll soon see heavy equipment on Yakima's troubled North First Street. Money is there to start digging into the pavement and give it a new look.

Sonny Shah owns the Bali Hai Motel on North First Street. He wants to see changes there.

"The restaurants and business places are closed," Shah said. "They're boarded up. They need business."

"It had to be, in the 40s, 50s, 60s a very vibrant, robust street," Yakima's city manager Tony O'Rourke said. "It certainly has fallen on harder times."

Most of the work to revitalize North First Street so far has come in the form of enforcement. Police patrol more to deter crime. Code enforcement inspected businesses to ensure safety. The next piece of the puzzle will bring the jackhammer.

"It's always good to get a better, wider streets," Shah said. "Lower the traffic, lower the congestion."

Work begins next spring. The first phase of construction will focus on North First from the I-82 and US-12 ramps to N Street. The $2.7 million project is shovel ready and is expected to be done by 2015.

Crews will work late at night, but traffic is unavoidable. Sonny says he'll deal with that, but says it will take more than new pavement to make a difference.

"If the streets and the buildings look the same way and boarded up, you're going to have the same kind of crowd walking on a nicely paved road," Shah said. 

The second phase will run from H Street to N Street. It'll cost about $3.5 million and is expected to be done in 2017.

Plans call for the last phase to be done in 2019. That will cover the section from MLK Boulevard to H Street.

All are elements to help North First Street deliver a stronger first impression. The plan will be reviewed during tomorrow night's city council meeting.