Yakima could issue bond to speed up North 1st Street fixes

Yakima could issue bond to speed up North 1st Street fixes »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Improvements to North First Street could come sooner than expected. Yakima leaders are weighing a plan to speed up construction. The city would issue a bond instead of waiting for federal grants. KIMA asked the city manager about the proposed timeline.

The gateway to Downtown Yakima has seen better days.

"It's suffering," said Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke. "Economically, socially, it's suffering."

City leaders are eager to fix North First Street. They've been relying on federal money to pay for improvements.

The feds promised Yakima almost $3 million to refurbish the stretch from Interstate 82 to East N Street. Construction is scheduled for next spring.

But, money for the rest is no guarantee. O'Rourke says that could delay the project six to eight years.

"We understand with the underpass construction, the Lincoln and MLK, there's a lot of business fatigue already taking place on North First," he said. "What we don't want to do is compound that."

City leaders now plan to use local money by issuing an $8 million bond. It could be used immediately to get the work done as early as 2016.

Helen Teske owns Whitehead Insurance on North First.

"I think having the city be responsible for taking care of the city is a good idea," she said. "I think people rely on the government probably too much."

But that $8 million won't cover all of the renovations, including plans for a roundabout at East H Street and North First and to relocate power lines. Those projects will have to wait for grant money.

A bond would also limit money for other projects in Yakima. There wouldn't be enough for a new indoor swimming pool, another city priority.

KIMA asked, "Are you sort of implicitly saying that North First Street remains a higher priority than, say, a swimming pool for the city?"

"I think so," said O'Rourke.

Helen agrees North First Street needs to have a stable future.

"I've seen a lot of turnover through the years of businesses coming, they're here for a little while and they're gone," she said.

A trend city leaders want to stop.

Yakima City Council took up the proposal at Tuesday's meeting. O'Rourke tells KIMA more meetings are in the works to give the public a chance to share their opinions.