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Proposal floated to close more of Monroe Street, speed up city ‘road diet’ project

UPDATED: Fri., May 4, 2018, 9:52 a.m.

Business and property owners along the southern edge of the North Monroe Corridor are being asked if they’re willing to bear more closed streets in order to speed the upcoming “road diet.”

Murphy Brothers Inc., the firm awarded a $4.2 million contract to build the southern section of the new three-lane Monroe Street north of Indiana Avenue, began sending property owners a proposal to tear up an additional four blocks as early as next week. The entire project, which is intended to slow traffic and make sidewalks safer for pedestrians, is being built by two firms each in two phases, and the blocks between Indiana and Montgomery avenues weren’t anticipated to close until July.

If the proposal is accepted, Monroe Street would close from Indiana to Chelan avenues. The option is possible because crews tasked with working on underground utility and sewer lines have finished, freeing them up to move farther south on the road.

The proposal caused some property owners, including those of Prohibition Gastropub, to publicly balk at the change in plans, citing concerns about lost business because of road closures and a lack of access to their buildings. But the city says the idea is merely a proposal, and no decision has been made.

“I think Murphy Brothers thought we’d just say ‘OK,’ but this is such a sensitive project, with a lot of different issues,” said Marlene Feist, strategic development director for the city’s Public Works department.

Prohibition Gastropub owner John Leonetti and Bellwether Brewery owner Dave Musser said they received an email Wednesday from Murphy Brothers about the proposal.

Both of the business owners said they have events planned throughout May and June, and so are inclined to turn the city down.

“We planned our events around what the schedule is now,” Musser said. “It would save a couple weeks, sure, but it would not be worth it for us if we lost that business this summer.”

Leonetti said he contacted a few Monroe Street business owners after he received the proposal email. They all shared his feelings on the proposal, he said.

“We just want them to stick to the contract they had originally,” Leonetti said.

The construction project became a campaign issue in a northwest City Council race last fall, and several business owners came together to file a $15 million tort claim before the road work began.

Murphy Brothers is asking for feedback by Monday in order to make the most of an accelerated timetable for the work, Feist said. But if the majority of property and business owners oppose it, the city will request that the contractor stick with the current timeline, she said.

The proposal does not affect the planned timetable for the northern portion of the project, which is being built by the firm Red Diamond Construction, Inc. Work is expected to be complete this fall.


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