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Seneca extension nears home stretch

Stoplight installation and library parking lot construction remain


Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Southwest Seneca Street is open now and awaiting functional street lights to manage traffic along S.W. Martinazzi Avenue.Seneca Street opened to drivers this month, just about five months after Tualatin City Hall was torn down to make way for the road.

The street’s opening comes several months before both of its neighboring parking lots will be complete, which will mark the end of construction near the Tualatin Public Library.

“People have been pretty understanding, but it’s definitely an impact. There’s very little parking for library patrons and city (offices) patrons,” said city manager Sherilyn Lombos. “They’ve been great, but our library staff continue to hear, ‘Where’s the parking?’”

For several months, parking at the library has been nearly impossible, with many spaces blocked out for construction. For most people, unless they’ve been lucky enough to snag a rare space, it’s meant parking across the street or at Nyberg Rivers, which isn’t always a simple task, either. Yet, the revamp of the parking lots and the Seneca Street extension will be welcome changes once finished, said Lombos, and will ultimately enhance the visiting experience of library-goers and shoppers alike.

At the time of Seneca Street’s opening, the south parking lot for the library and city offices was opened, as well. However, with 29 spaces, this lot only makes up a fraction of the 100 spaces that will be available when the north lot is opened by March 2015, up from the 80 spaces that were available prior to construction.

“(From the south lot), you have to cross Seneca to get to the library. There’s a pedestrian path and it’s safe, but it’s not the big parking lot,” said Lombos. “When the big parking lot is done, it will be much better. It will be fantastic, actually.”

Lombos said the north lot will definitely be completed by March, but she’s hoping it will be finished and open in February. This timeline is about a month beyond the deadline that was initially set, which called for the lots to be open by the end of January. Similarly, Seneca Street opened a few weeks after the initial plan of opening it over Thanksgiving. Nothing major led to the delays, but enough small kinks added up to push back the dates.

“We had some scheduling issues with (Portland General Electric) because of a lot of other work that was going on with them, and we had some compaction issues on the south parking lot,” Lombos said. “I’ve heard that the soil around here isn’t primo soil, so they had to dig and compact and then dig and compact and then compact some more. It just took longer to do that than they expected. (Also), moving the utilities ended up taking a little longer than we had scheduled out.”

But by the time everything is completed, it will come in about a month after the original end date. The Seneca Street extension is simply waiting on a stoplight, which is due to be operating by Jan. 5. The cost of that project, which includes the tearing down of city hall, moving utilities, adding the stoplight and the road construction, are being covered by Nyberg Rivers developer CenterCal Properties, and Lombos said they total $956,000.

Since the City Council wanted CenterCal to build the street, and because it was on the list of approved projects that could be built with transportation development tax dollars, CenterCal is earning transportation development tax credit for the construction. This means that if it owed $2 million in TDT, the company could subtract the Seneca Street costs, reducing its TDT total to $1.04 million, said Lombos. With all of this construction going to happen, the city wanted to utilize the opportunity as much as possible.

“The city is paying for the complete construction of the parking lots. And that’s because it’s essentially our parking lots and doesn’t have anything to do with the (Nyberg Rivers) development,” she said, “We were able to take this opportunity to expand the parking lot, and it didn’t actually make a lot of sense to have the city hall torn down and the street through without looking at those parking lots.”

The parking lot construction totals $585,000, with the money coming out of the urban renewal fund. For years, this fund collected money for projects within the Central Urban Renewal District, and had essentially funded what it was supposed to, including the library. With money left over, some was used to pay for the parking lot project, said Lombos. Though the fund no longer collects money, what still remains could be used toward other projects, such as a new city hall if it was built within the geographic area covered by the district.

In addition to the two parking lots, the city also added a drive-by book drop, something library patrons had been inquiring about for years. Even once the lots are completed, this enhancement will continue to help free up spots that would have been full before.

“The street and both parking lots and the book drop are really enhancements to the library,” Lombos said. “We just see the library, and really the downtown, benefiting from these projects.”

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