Kent City Council President Toni Troutner, Mayor Dana Ralph and Deputy Public Works Director Chad Bieren help kick off construction of the new roundabout at Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Kent City Council President Toni Troutner, Mayor Dana Ralph and Deputy Public Works Director Chad Bieren help kick off construction of the new roundabout at Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Fourth and Willis Street roundabout construction to start in Kent

Project will replace signalization intersection with two-lane roundabout

Construction starts this week on a roundabout for the intersection of Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street that will change traffic on two of Kent’s main roads.

Work is expected to be completed this fall on the $4.75 million project, which will include new sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian lighting, landscaping and art installations to spruce up the gateway to downtown.

A $3 million state Department of Transportation grant will help fund construction. The rest of the cost will be paid for by city B&O, utility and drainage tax funds, according to city documents. The existing signalization intersection will be replaced with a two-lane roundabout.

The intersection will remain open during construction, but traffic will be reduced to one lane in all directions. There may be several weekend closures.

The City Council approved a contract in May with Tacoma-based Active Construction, Inc., to construct the roundabout.

The state Department of Transportation required the city to build a roundabout along State Route 516 (aka Willis Street) in exchange for allowing the city to extend Naden Avenue and allow right in/right out traffic access from the Naden site to Willis Street. City officials wanted the access to attract developers to potentially purchase the city property, which sits just northwest of the Fourth and Willis intersection. The only current access to the Naden property is from West Meeker Street to the north.

The council unanimously approved in January a purchase and sale agreement with Boise, Idaho-based Braintree Hospitality to sell 2.2 acres on the south end of the 7.7-acre city property for $2.6 million. Braintree plans to build a four-story, 136-room Hilton Garden Inn on the vacant property.

Many details remain before the hotel deal closes next year on the property just north of Willis Street and east of Highway 167. A closing date of March 25, 2021, has been set. Braintree must receive franchise approval from Hilton, go through the city permit process and negotiate a development agreement with the city that will include specific hotel design, specific road design, a construction timeline and easement to the city for the road.

The city started to purchase property along Naden Avenue in 2006 with plans to build an aquatic center. But after spending $8 million to acquire properties, the council later abandoned that proposal because of the bad economy and high costs of a new pool. City leaders later worked out an agreement with the YMCA to build a facility with a pool on the East Hill that opened in September. The council agreed in 2016 to try to sell the Naden property.

Street closures

During construction, city officials will close West Willis Street (just south of Fourth and Willis) between Fifth Avenue South to Fourth Avenue South and from Fourth Avenue South to the dead end.

West Saar Street will be closed from Fifth Avenue South to Fourth Avenue South and Fourth Avenue South to Third Avenue South, according to the city Public Works Department.

Closures (from July 1 to winter) will allow for construction activities related to the roundabout. Fifth, Fourth and Third Avenue South will not be impacted for northbound and southbound travel.

Access to West Saar Street will be from Fifth Avenue South or Third Avenue South. Access to West Willis Street will be from Fifth Avenue South, with only local access from Third Avenue South.

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A rendering shows the new roundabout at Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street. COURTESY GRAPHIC, City of Kent

A rendering shows the new roundabout at Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street. COURTESY GRAPHIC, City of Kent

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