The decades-long proposal for a Prune Alley improvement project is officially nearing ground breaking.
The community was invited to give input on the proposed design of the plan, which was presented at the first of several community feedback meetings at the Eastsound fire station on Sept. 23. Ideas, blueprints and intersection renderings were presented by San Juan County Councilmember Rick Hughes and county engineer Jesse Douglas-Seitz. Improvements prioritize stormwater management and safety.
“This plan will give us an opportunity to treat another quarter of Eastsound’s water. We’re going to strip the road out and build infrastructure for stormwater and then lay the road on top of that,” county engineer Colin Huntemer said.
County staff is asking for preference from the community on art; street murals; bricks and brick color; truncated domes; pedestrian scale lighting; street trees or hanging plant baskets; benches; bike racks; water refill stations; electric vehicle charging stations; and parking.
“We now have an opportunity with our funding to make something really comprehensive and complete. I think it would be really cool if Eastsound was a walking museum,” San Juan County Councilmember Rick Hughes said. “That’s something that fits in with the comprehensive plan. We’re at an early phase to get these ideas out and find the right ways to consider them. Historically, the county has worked with Prune Alley property owners to manage the street front, but the county needs to step up and be a city planner and operator. The county has really adopted a rural mindset, and I feel it’s important we take bigger ownership in Eastsound and provide some resources.”
According to Hughes, depending upon the appetite of the community, the venture will be executed in three phases over three years. Construction on Prune Alley from Main Street to Fern Street will begin in September 2020. Phase two from Fern Street to Rose Street is slated to initiate September 2021. Phase three from Rose Street to School Street will begin in September 2022.
“Scrappy” funding for the Prune Alley revitalization project comes from the county’s real estate excise tax, which will provide upwards of $500,000 every year throughout the life of the project, a Federal Surface Transportation Block Grant, which provides flexible state funding to preserve and improve the conditions on any Federal-aid highway, bridge or tunnel, and county road funds. Stormwater treatment funding will partially come from the Washington Department of Ecology.
Hughes mentioned the county was unsuccessful in supplementing funding for the project with a Community Development Block Grant, which annually helps rural cities and counties like San Juan County sustain and build local infrastructure projects and put people to work, principally for low- and moderate-income communities.
In total, the county anticipates spending $3.7 million on the upgrades, up from a forecasted $2.7 million in 2017.
Because the funding has been based on the county’s budget, funds occasionally had to be allocated to other projects, which is why progress on Prune Alley has been slow. Allocation of funds for 25 county road projects have been approved by the county council — part of a six-year Transportation Improvement Project known as TIP. Twelve out of the 25 TIP projects are on Orcas Island, while Lopez has five road projects and San Juan Island has six. The other two include mooring buoys and chip-sealing.
The Eastsound Planning Review Committee has long been part of the conversation regarding Prune Alley. EPRC’s goal was to create a design that will transform the streetscape from its current state — that of being an undifferentiated 50-foot-wide swath of chipseal and gravel — into an intimate, pedestrian-friendly, varied streetscape with curbs, sidewalks, and landscaping features exemplified by Main Street and North Beach Road.
The next community meeting on the Prune Alley Improvement project will be held the third week in October at the Eastsound firehall.