Redesigned crosswalks at four-way stop are part of project

By Don Nelson

It’s more than a year away, but already the Town of Winthrop and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) are planning how to make a repaving project through the middle of town less disruptive.

WSDOT will repave about two miles of the state highway, which carries traffic through the town and is known as Riverside Avenue in downtown Winthrop.

Town and WSDOT officials are well aware of the potential for disrupting tourism traffic. WSDOT representatives recently met with Town Planner Rocklynn Culp, Lynette Westendorf from the town’s Westernization Architectural Committee, and Winthrop Chamber of Commerce representatives David Gottula, Anna Kominak and Kristen Smith to discuss a revision of the four-way stop on Highway 20 to accommodate crosswalks that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Part of that discussion was about timing.

Gottula, president of the chamber of commerce, said that WSDOT is aiming to complete the repaving project in April 2017, before the North Cascades Highway over Washington Pass typically opens for the summer, and before the annual ’49er Days celebration. The weather needs to be warm enough so that the work can proceed.

“There goal is to get it done before the [tourism] traffic starts,” Kominak said.

That is the town’s wish also, Gottula said.

Council members reviewed plans for pedestrian crosswalks at the four-way intersection during last week’s council meeting.

Part of WSDOT’s consideration in the design is to make the crosswalks as compatible as possible with Winthrop’s Westernization theme, Culp told the council.

The proposed design, which incorporates sloped ramps for wheelchair use, includes “bulbs” that extend out past the existing boardwalks and a bit into the roadways. “The bulb-outs allow for ramps to have the correct slopes to meet ADA without cutting into the existing boardwalks,” Culp wrote in a memo to the council. “They also narrow the crosswalks, improving safety for all pedestrians.” The design addresses common complaints about pedestrian safety in the intersection, Culp said.

As part of the project, WSDOT will also improve stormwater drainage at the intersection, where water has sometimes backed up to form broad puddles.

To meet Westernization concerns, Culp said, WSDOT has offered to stain and stamp the roadway concrete so that the crosswalks blend in naturally with the existing boardwalks. “To their credit, WSDOT is making an effort and going to the extra expense of stamping the concrete so it blends in,” she said.

The knobby surfaces of the ramps also can be a different color than yellow, Culp added.

Culp said WSDOT wants feedback from the town on how the four-way improvements can be done, but she said that “there is no do-nothing” alternative.

“They are really trying hard to make it a better fit for us,” Culp said of WSDOT.

No parking spaces will be lost as a result of the project, Culp said.

Council member Mike Strulic asked if it would be able to maintain a strip of land just east of Three Fingered Jack’s for motorcycle parking. Culp said that would be possible for the near future.

Culp said that WSDOT also could add a special pattern such as hoof prints in the crosswalks. There would be no additional cost up front she said, but there would be maintenance costs for the town in the future. Council members decided they could do without hoof prints.

In other business, Mayor Sue Langdalen said that after personal interviews, two candidates for positions with the Marshal’s Office will now undergo background checks. The town has two vacancies for police officers, including the marshal’s position, and currently has no regular full-time officers. Winthrop is temporarily contracting with other local law enforcement agencies for part-time officers.