A view of Front Street in downtown Ketchikan. (KRBD file photo)

Starting next month, the state Department of Transportation will kick off a long-planned, multi-phase road improvement project in Ketchikan’s downtown corridor.

The $9.7-million contract was awarded recently to SECON.

Improvements to Front, Mill and Stedman streets will include wider sidewalks, new pedestrian safety features and road resurfacing. The first phase, which starts mid-February, will be sidewalk work on Stedman.

DOT’s Chris Goins said one example of a planned new safety feature is a sidewalk bulb-out at the Stedman/Mill/Dock intersection. The bulb-out will provide a partial block, so drivers will have to go around it to get onto Dock Street.

“They’ll have to very much put their signal on and declare that they are making that turn,” he said.  

Garrett Paul is the project construction manager. He said the contractor will have to provide access to affected businesses during construction. Traffic will remain two lanes most of the time, but parking will be affected.

Paul said crews will start work on Stedman between the Creek Street bridge and Deermount.

“The plan of attack is to get the storefront side of the road done, then we’ll move over to the water side,” he said. “We’ve got some pipework, some more sidewalk work, and all of this should be completed by May 1st.”

The May 1st deadline is because of Ketchikan’s extremely busy cruise ship season. However, there’s a better chance of warm, relatively dry weather in the spring and summer, so that’s when the road will be paved. But, not until after 3 p.m.

DOT negotiated an agreement with the City of Ketchikan and downtown hotels to work at night, but to stop noisy work such as grinding, by 1 a.m. Paving and striping can continue through 6 a.m.

“We want to keep people in business down there. We paid a lot more for that with the contract, but we felt that was worth it trying to keep people working, employed and moving through,” Goins said. “It was worth every dime.”

This first phase of the project also will include bridge work on Stedman and Front streets, but most of that will be under the bridges and shouldn’t affect traffic.

Paul said the next phase will be more sidewalk work starting this fall after the cruise season is done. That will be from the downtown tunnel working south toward the bridge. Paving on that section will start in spring of next year, with a finish date of August 2019.