It’s pretty safe to say when trees come down around the Snoqualmie Valley, people notice. When they come down in a highly visible location – in a city where development is a hot button topic – people not only notice, they talk.
The removal of section of downtown street trees has North Bend residents buzzing, wanting to know why.
On Monday, July 24th, the City of North Bend commenced on a long-planned construction project in the downtown core between Bendigo Blvd and Ballarat Ave. The project includes a lot underground utility work (water main replacement, stormwater and electrical improvements) and a complete sidewalk redesign and replacement.
In order to do that underground work and replace those sidewalks, the project also includes replacing all the street trees in the area. One of the early steps in the four-month construction project was taking out current trees – a step that occurred earlier this week and was very noticeable. Many residents described the tree removal as heartbreaking, making the downtown construction area an eyesore without those 15-20 sidewalk trees.
City of North Bend Public Work Director Mark Rigos said all of the deciduous trees will be replaced. He recognized the eyesore that the [temporary] loss of the trees has created, but said unfortunately their removal was needed due to what was going on below the street and sidewalks… the stuff you can’t see.
Rigos explained that the removed trees ranged from 10-25 years old, with shallow roots due to the compacted ground that is required for streets and sidewalks. Those shallow roots make the trees more prone to blowing over during storms, which happened last fall when one landed on a parked car.
Some of the older trees also did not have underground, interlocking baskets around their planting area, which are typically installed around street trees in order to manage their root systems. The baskets help prevent raised sidewalks (tripping hazards) and the roots from invading underground utilities.
Utilities in the area are fairly shallow, which means the shallow tree roots were also wrapping around underground pipes and utility lines. Rigos said it would have been really hard to preserve all the trees while working on the underground utilities – with no guaranty they would survive. It also would have made the project more costly.
So the decision was made to replace the trees as part of the project. Once all the utility work is finished and the new sidewalks are constructed, an equivalent number of similar-aged (meaning all new trees will be a similar age – not same age as those removed) street trees will be installed in downtown North Bend.
Yes, for a while the area might be an eyesore, but Rigos feels it will be worth it in the long run, with needed improvements to the intersection and utility systems – and better sidewalks that are fully ADA compliant.
He said he loves trees and it was sad these ones had to be removed, but added, “Next year with the potted flowers, new street trees, new concrete, it will look great.”
And as construction projects go, it’s not a long timeline. Completion is expected in November 2017.
Rigos said the separate sidewalk replacement project between Ballarat and Downing is about 75% complete and moving on schedule.
The Downtown Plaza Project is funded by a grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), which distributes federal tax money to cities in the region. North Bend is expected to get another PSRC grant this year for the Park Street Roundabout project which is expected to help improve traffic on North Bend Way between Park Street and Cedar Falls Way – something Rigos said is a top transportation priority for the city council. With grant approval, that project could start in summer 2018.
You can read more about City of North Bend current capital projects HERE.