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010318-adh-nws-Albany Streetscape-my (copy)

Jesus Morfin of Emory & Sons, Salem, does the concrete finish work on a curb at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Lyons Street in January. The streetscape project in downtown Albany finally has wrapped up.

Drivers of Albany, our long downtown nightmare finally is over: The city's long-running streetscape project, which snarled traffic for more than a year, is all but finished.

One of the final links in the project — paving Second Avenue between Washington and Ellsworth streets — wrapped up last week, closing out the most expensive (and most ambitious) of the projects launched by Albany's urban renewal district, the Central Albany Revitalization Area.

It seems as if downtown Albany streets have been torn up for a decade or so, but the reality doesn't jibe with the perception: The downtown streetscape improvement project began a little more than a year ago with Phase I: new sidewalks, tree removal and replacement, asphalt paving along the streets surrounding the Albany Post Office, and the creation of 47 back-in angled parking spaces adjacent to the post office.

The project's second and final phase involved new sidewalks, curb ramps, water lines, trees and lighting on Lyon and Ellsworth streets; new street lighting, street trees, street furniture, sidewalks, asphalt pavement and water lines on Second and Third avenues; new water lines and full street reconstruction on Calapooia Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and on two sections of Broadalbin; and new sidewalk, curb ramps and street trees on Ferry Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

The final project cost as of last month was about $1.036 million for Phase I and $9.576 million for Phase II. Of that, about $8.435 million came from the Central Albany Revitalization Area. It's CARA's biggest investment in public infrastructure to date and has been planned since the district was formed in 2001.

There's a reason why this has been a top priority for CARA for nearly two decades. This project, to improve downtown for motorists and pedestrians, is a key part of the district's mission, a mission that is reflected in the agency's name: the Central Albany Revitalization Area.

It's easy to forget the progress that's been made over the last 15 years or so to give a boost to Albany's downtown. We have no doubt that CARA has played a major role — arguably the major role — in that revitalization. This work to improve downtown streets and sidewalks provides an important piece in the emerging picture.

We understand that urban renewal can be a controversial subject in Albany. It's always easy to nitpick some of the details, and the delays involved in the streetscape project gave fresh ammunition to critics. (For our part, we remain unconvinced of the need to install such fancy streetlights as part of the project.)

Nevertheless, downtown now is a more inviting place, for drivers and pedestrians alike. For us, that's the bottom line. (mm)

Weather watch

You may have read earlier this week in the pages of this newspaper that the mid-valley is about to swelter through the first extended heat wave of the summer. 

The mid-valley is going to hit a stretch of days, starting today and stretching through Monday, in which highs likely will be 90 or above. (The good news is that temperatures are expected to ease into the mid-80s by the time the Linn County Fair kicks off on Wednesday.)

You know all about how to stay safe during hot weather, so we won't belabor those points. (Sunscreen! Drink water! Air-conditioned rooms help!)

Here's another weather-related tip to keep in mind: Keep an eye on your neighbors, especially the elderly or those battling chronic disease, who tend to have a harder time dealing with the heat.

You're familiar with the quote, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." The quote, often attributed to Mark Twain, apparently was coined by newspaper editor Charles Dudley Warner. Regardless of who said it, though, there is something you can do about this hot spell: Keep an eye on the welfare of your neighbors. (mm)

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