Driving through downtown Redmond got a bit simpler Wednesday as city crews officially opened the 161st Avenue NE extension between Redmond Way and Cleveland Street.
Redmond Mayor John Marchione said the $8.5-million project will go a long way in helping connect the city's downtown grid system. Sometime before the end of October, crews will extend 161st all the way to Bear Creek Parkway, which Marchione said will make it much easier to get between the Bella Bottega shopping center and .
"Before, you used to have to do the Jitterbug" to drive north or south through downtown, he said. "This one block might be small, but it's a key piece of this street grid."
The new street is also home to another milestone for Redmond's roadway system. The new set of traffic lights that was installed at 161st Avenue NE and Cleveland Street collectively represent the city's 100th signal, according to Public Works Director Bill Campbell.
"It's a big deal for a city this size," he said, adding that the city's first signal, which was installed in the late 1960s, is located nearby at Leary Way and Cleveland Street.
The street extension project, which began approximately two years ago, involved more than just laying down asphalt. City officials had to acquire a building that had been in place since the 1960s, relocate its tenants and tear down the structure.
After demolition, workers found solvents from a previous dry cleaning business had seeped into the soil, which required an environmental clean-up, Campbell said.
The finished roadway features two lanes for motorized traffic, two bike lanes and a new sidwalk on both sides. Environmentally friendly features such as rain gardens were also included in the project.