Trees are the root of the problem in downtown Pasco

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMarch 8, 2014 

Pasco sidewalk damage

A large tree planted on Lewis Street near the Pasco Post Office at Third Avenue has lifted the sidewalk and metal grate surrounding the planter area.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The streets of downtown Pasco are lined with dozens of trees, providing both aesthetic beauty and shade in warm months.

But below the surface, the trees' roots are causing headaches for the city and pedestrians who must navigate cracked, uneven sidewalks.

"A lot of the trees don't get enough water, and (roots) consequently come to the surface," said Don Porter, director emeritus of the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Pasco.

Some of the roots have pushed the sidewalks up three inches, said Ahmad Qayoumi, the city's public works director.

The city is in the process of hiring two new street workers to help repair all of Pasco's sidewalks over the next four years.

Qayoumi said the southeast part of town, which includes the downtown area, is considered a priority because of the age and condition of the sidewalks there.

But the trees complicate the repairs downtown.

The city has to evaluate the downtown sidewalks to see which trees will have to come out and how much it will cost to put in new sidewalks in the half square mile area. Qayoumi said the city has identified 35 trees that need to be assessed.

The city also has to figure out what to do with the areas once trees are removed, Qayoumi said.

"Are we going to put trees back in?" he said. "What kind of trees are we going to put back?"

Qayoumi expects work on the downtown sidewalks to start in 2015. But how long it takes to replace them is uncertain.

"It could be one year, it could be more," he said. "At this point it's very difficult to say."

Porter said keeping up with that growth can allow improvements like sidewalks to fall through the cracks. Pasco usually ranks among the fastest growing cities in Washington.

"I don't blame the city for anything," he said. "They have such growth in the city it's hard to keep up with everything."

New sidewalks would be a welcome addition to the downtown area, said Michael Goins, executive director of the Downtown Pasco Development Authority. It also will hopefully lead to improvements in landscaping.

"It will look better," he said. "It won't look like it's so worn down...It's a great area with great culture. A move of that sort would have a big impact down here."

The city is being proactive by taking care of the sidewalks, said Moon Security President Mike Miller. His business is on Clark Street and he said the work will improve pedestrian safety.

Miller also serves as the downtown development authority's board president.

"This is our house," he said. "We want to show our house as a good place to come and visit, and also be aesthetically good looking."

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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