Work continues on the new roundabout at Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street. City of Kent crews will install two readerboards in November as part of the project. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Work continues on the new roundabout at Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street. City of Kent crews will install two readerboards in November as part of the project. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

City of Kent to install two message boards near Fourth and Willis roundabout

Part of Gateway to Downtown plan

Crews will install two electronic message boards near the new Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street roundabout as another way to reach out to residents, visitors and help make the area a Gateway to Downtown.

A message board for westbound traffic along Willis Street will go up along the north side of Willis in line with Fifth Avenue South, according to an email from Josh Maasberg, city communications coordinator. The south side message board for eastbound traffic will be between Sixth Avenue South and Fifth Avenue South along Willis Street.

The boards are scheduled to be operational by Nov. 30, with construction for the base support to start in early November. Each board will be about 3 feet 4 inches high by 7 feet 7 inches wide. The structural base will be about 12 feet long, 2 feet wide and 10 to 12 feet high.

The two boards will cost about $150,000 and be paid for out of the city’s nearly $5.8 million COVID-19 relief funds from the federal CARES Act. The city spent about $2.1 million of the relief funds to award $6,500 each in small business grants to just more than 300 companies and spent about $1 million on laptops for city employees.

City Chief Administrative Officer Derek Matheson told the City Council at its Oct. 6 meeting that the message boards will be used initially for information about COVID-19 reminders, such as wearing face masks, washing your hands and staying 6 feet apart.

Mayor Dana Ralph echoed what Matheson said.

“We have been asked by the governor and King County executive to make sure that we are messaging to residents about COVID-19,” Ralph said. “That’s what this project is going to do so that we are getting the word out to residents.”

City leaders plan to ask the state Legislature next year for $1 million to help fund the Gateway to Downtown project at the roundabout. Elements of the gateway include expanded pedestrian and bicycle mixing zones at the four corners of the roundabout, enhanced landscapes at the four corners and center island, pedestrian lighting to improve safety and an artistic sculpture.

Work on the roundabout is expected to wrap up later this fall.

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