By Eli Francovich
The slate of 2014 construction projects in the city of Liberty Lake range from parks to pedestrian crossings.
One of the major projects is already well under way: the Liberty Lake Fields. City Engineer Andrew Staples said the fields, located next to Liberty Lake Elementary School between Boone and Country Vista, will feature a pair of new baseball diamonds and 48 new parking spots. Construction started in April and is projected to cost approximately $750,000. Staples said it will be completed sometime before the end of fall.
Closer to the commercial portion of Liberty Lake lies the Town Square Park project, which borders the traditional Liberty Lake Farmers Market area along Meadowwood Lane. Officially approved May 20 by the Liberty Lake City Council, the park will provide more public green space for Liberty Lake residents, while also helping with parking issues.
"So while during the daytime it will be facilitating additional parking for STA users, it will also be a new facility for the Farmers Market," Staples said, adding that the bathrooms planned for the park will help as "the adjacent businesses won't have to worry about the public coming in and using the restroom."
In addition to the new green space, Staples said the city is working on installing three to five more flashing pedestrian crosswalks at strategic locations in the city. Two such crossings are already in place and feature flashing lights, activated by a pedestrian pushing a button. The whole system is solar powered and costs around $13,000 to install.
"There are a few pedestrian crossings we feel would be much safer if they had extra indication," Staples said. "We are just trying to enhance the safety of our pedestrian crossing. It's something our citizens value greatly. We have a fantastic trail system with lots of walkways."
The two installed have already proven useful, he said.
There will also be upgrades to the Rocky Hill Park storage facility. This project, Staples said, won't affect the average citizen. Instead, it's just improving the existing barn to outfit it for equipment storage.
There will also be new shade structures installed at Pavilion Park, and a reading garden at the library is finished and awaiting its formal dedication in June. Following a precautionary closure of the library in April because of roof deficiencies, the city recently finished re-roofing both the police department and the library.
Following a busy 2013 highlighted by the construction of a new roundabout and resurfacing of significant portions of Mission and Valleyway avenues, 2014 is quiet by comparison on the street front. Staples said thanks in part to grant funding, 2015 is being targeted as a year for improvements to one of the city's most traditionally traveled thoroughfares: Appleway Avenue. The improvement will focus mostly on visibility and pedestrian access, he said.
"We will be putting in some islands, while still allowing access to the businesses," Staples said. "We will be putting in some safe pedestrian crossings. We will be installing street lighting down the medians. Right now, it's very dark, and it's very wide."
Construction safety tips
With construction season in full swing, including work at the Liberty Lake Ball Fields site, here are a few reminders for staying safe this season:
• Any area that is marked with caution tape or other barrier is considered off limits to the public for safety reasons. Oftentimes, work will look complete - such as newly installed playground equipment - but concrete work or other items may not be strong enough for use and could be unsafe.
• When construction activity is taking place, always pay attention to your surroundings. This may mean refraining from texting and other distracting items while near a construction zone. Workers are trained to watch for pedestrians, but safety is also a personal responsibility.
• Listen for backup alarms, horns, voices and other audible queues. All of these could be trying to keep you safe from potential hazards.
• If you are uncertain whether it is safe to enter something that looks like a construction zone, it is better to avoid a potential hazard than to chance potential injury. Occasionally barriers are taken down by those not involved in the construction work, and it can appear safe to enter a site when it really is not.
• Stay well away from any open ditch. These are typically marked with safety tape or other barricades for good reason. Soils surrounding a ditch can come loose and collapse.
• Pay attention to and obey construction traffic signs and flaggers. Both are doing their best to keep you safe.
• If you do see something that appears unsafe or questionable, please call City Hall during business hours at 755-6700 and the on-duty police officer's phone at 218-4899 after hours. As always, if there is an emergency, call 911.
- Source: Andrew Staples, city engineer for Liberty Lake