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Learn more about South Canal Boulevard improvements: www.southcanalblvd.org

Despite more than 40 inches of snow in February and early March in Redmond, the long-awaited South Canal Boulevard project is expected to be completed on schedule in late April, barring more significant winter weather.

However ...

Since the first street closure on the $6.9 million project in March 2018, a land-use application was filed to build the 190-unit Obsidian Heights Apartments, which is between SW Obsidian and Pumice avenues and SW 15th Street and South Canal. A newly built section of Pumice will intersect with Canal near Safeway, creating a four-way intersection.

“If you’ve been to Safeway, you know it’s hard to turn off Pumice onto Canal,” City Engineer Mike Caccavano told city councilors last week. “Adding this additional traffic (from apartment residents) will make that worse.”

So the city plans to build a mini-roundabout at the site, and figures there is no better time than when South Canal is already closed. The project could add an additional $500,000 in cost and up to three months to the overall construction to the project.

And with new roundabouts proposed as part of the South Highway 97 project, it might not be the last roundabout built along South Canal — though it could be years before more are constructed.

A roundabout is a better way to deal with turning issues than a four-way stop, Caccavano said.

“We understand this has been a long project, a lot of impact to the public,” he said. “We appreciate their patience.”

After discussing the closure with the city council at its March 12 meeting, Caccavano said that doing the project after the larger South Canal project makes sense because it saves time and money over rebidding it once the apartments are complete.

Starting roundabout construction later would also require tearing up recently built curbs and sidewalks.

“We think it would save at least a month over doing a separate project,” he said.

Talk it out

But the councilors urged Caccavano to try to get contractor Knife River Corp. to complete the roundabout faster than the three-month time-frame.

Councilor Jay Patrick said one business had already gone under as a result of the project. While he didn’t want to see that happen again, Patrick said it would be better to add onto a project than to restart it later. Patrick was running the March 12 meeting because Mayor George Endicott and his wife, Councilor Krisanna Clark-Endicott, were at a National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C.

“My hope is that we can get with Knife River to get them to work longer hours, work into the night,” Patrick said. “Get this project done in three-quarters of the time or half the time, rather than extending it out.”

Caccavano, who will return to ask the council for an official change order for the project in April, said he will discuss options with Knife River.

One option is to build half the roundabout at a time, so traffic can still access Safeway from Canal. Right turns from Pumice onto Canal are currently allowed because Canal is open between the intersections of Pumice and SW Obsidian Avenue.

It’s uncertain if building the roundabout more quickly will change the cost, Caccavano said.

“When we discuss this with Knife River, we will look at the cost of options to get it done more quickly and opened to traffic,” he told the Spokesman.

A Knife River representative did not return a request for comment.

Knife River crews began removing snow from the South Canal project March 11, Caccavano said.

According to a March 8 Knife River news release, workers intentionally waited to clear the area because the snow insulates the roadbed and prevents freezing during cold temperatures.

Some residents near Obsidian Middle School have been concerned both about the nearby construction and the plans for hundreds of new residents moving in with the apartments. Cathy Young, who lives just west of the construction, said she discussed her concerns with the city months ago.

“They don’t seem to care,” she wrote in an email to the Spokesman.

Do the roundabout

The design of the roundabout is expected to be finished within two weeks, Caccavano said at the meeting.

The mini-roundabout will feature a low concrete island with angled curbs, as opposed to larger traffic circles with landscaping and artwork in the middle, Caccavano said.

“Most of the traffic — cars — will use it like a normal roundabout, but trucks, such as Safeway delivery trucks, they can drive over the island to make the turn,” Caccavano told councilors.

Caccavano said Redmond has no current mini-roundabouts, but they work well in other states. While roundabouts are ubiquitous in Bend, the only other city-built roundabout in Redmond is the larger one at the Canal intersection with SW Yew Avenue.

“If we have any collisions at all, it will be minor fender-benders, rather than T-bones,” he said.

Pacific Partners Residential, the developer of the apartments, will contribute a share to the roundabout construction cost proportionate to what traffic will be added by the new apartments, Caccavano said. That means about 5 percent.

As of November, the estimated cost to build the apartments was $26 million.

The developer is paying the full cost of the new section of Pumice, as well as upgrades along 15th Street, Caccavano said.

A detour will be put in place to bring some traffic to 15th Street, though Caccavano acknowledged some cars will still use Highway 97 during construction.

Caccavano estimated that waiting to do construction on the roundabout could add 20 percent to the cost, or an estimated $100,000. Councilors praised the move of building it as soon as possible.

“I would just applaud you for thinking outside the box and maybe taking advantage of the situation that is presenting itself,” Councilor Camden King said. “While it’s, potentially, not very comfortable to have that closed off for another couple of months or so, it does make some sense to get a bird in hand.

An alternative to the unprotected left turn out of Safeway is important, Patrick said.

“This is televised, so I’m laying myself out there to be shot, but the project itself is needed,” Patrick told fellow councilors. “I’ve been at Safeway trying to turn left, and we don’t have a 190-apartment building there right now. It’s dangerous to hang a left out of Safeway.”

The roundabout will also include a crossing with the Homestead Canal Trail, which is being built along the irrigation canal as part of the South Canal project. The crossing will be located halfway up to canal level from the street.

Some in the community already expressed frustration because Knife River suspended major construction in mid-December, citing temperatures that could compromise the pouring of concrete curb and sidewalks and asphalt paving.

A post on the Spokesman’s Facebook page about the December closure drew dozens of comments, with some calling the closure “ridiculously mishandled” and “irresponsible,” adding that the winter had been relatively mild at that point.

But Caccavano said Knife River got farther along before the closure than the city thought it would. And the city has saved time and money by bidding it all as one project. Redmond originally looked at bidding separate projects, one from between SW Yew and Timber avenues, the other between SW Salmon and Obsidian avenues.

“We worked with Knife River to get this southern section open as we could last fall,” he said.

The city has received positive comments about the southern section of the road, which includes new turning lanes, curbs, sidewalks and bicycle lanes, Caccavano said.

Obsidian Heights recently revised its site plan. Caccavano said he would not be surprised to see the first phase of the project break ground this summer. The recent update shows the project being built in four phases, with the first buildings running parallel to Canal Boulevard. The first three phases will be north of the new section of Pumice, with the final phase to the south.

While the city plans to reopen all of South Canal except the Pumice intersection once the main project is complete, it will have to make sure proper signs and reader boards are in place for detours around the intersection, particularly for drivers headed south from the Veterans Way intersection, Caccavano said.

“We’re afraid people are going to head into there thinking Canal is open all the way through, and then have to go through a neighborhood,” he said. “We don’t want to overload that neighborhood.”

Another complaint with the Canal project has been additional traffic being forced on to South Highway 97. Though Caccavano said traffic on the highway has been increasing regularly in recent years, and the Canal project did not impact the rate of increase too much.

The city is also looking at what to do with the intersection with SW Obsidian Avenue, which is an all-way stop, for now. When open, the intersection tends to back up during rush hours. Caccavano said ideas include making it “right in/right out only.”

“We’re hoping to divert some of that traffic over to Pumice,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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