While the city of Kirkland celebrates the conclusion of the nearly two-year long construction for improving the 85th Street corridor, some local businesses are hoping to regain traction.
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Honda of Kirkland Feb. 17 that included a speech from Mayor Amy Walen, the city officially recognized the completion of the project which the city has described as the “most complicated and ambitious roadway project” they’ve carried out to date.
Honda of Kirkland hosted the event on its auxiliary lot.
The project was first conceived a decade ago during the comprehensive planning process. As part of the improvements to the corridor, the plans envisioned an east “gateway” to the city. The corridor was previously the three-mile long state Route 908 between Kirkland and Redmond, until its decommissioning in 2010. The corridor is also considered to be an important roadway link between the North and South Rose Hill Neighborhoods.
Among the improvements were the installation of new turn lanes, traffic signals and the reconfiguration of several intersections, the intent of which was to relieve traffic congestion and improve traffic flow.
Another aspect of the project was a new 24-inch water main and a stormwater system to improve drainage and flood prevention. The city finished their work in December.
“This investment has paid off,” Walen said. “It’s a crucial economic district where we can shop in Kirkland and a regional connection for us to get to and from work in our neighboring cities and beyond.”
However, the construction negatively impacted many of the businesses along 85th Street, and although some have seen their business pick up since then, others are struggling to recover.
General Manager Larry Mallory at Honda of Kirkland said that while it is hard for them to determine the impact on car sales, they saw a definite drop in walk-ins for service. But, now that the project is done, their service has seen a 15 percent increase. Throughout the construction process, he said, they worked with the city to help offset any access restrictions, one way by marking the entrances so customers knew where to go.
Others like Cave Craft Beer Store owner Eden Me said that the construction had an enormous impact on walk-in customers and the intersection changes make it difficult for people to reach her store.
Timing was also bad, as she was opening the business just as construction was starting up.
“This is kind of a disaster,” she said. “We’re starting just like a new store now. We see a little bit difference because they’re (residents) using 85th street corridor but not that much.”
Me said she has attended many council meetings to express her concerns and looked for some sort of tax break to mitigate the impact.