Viewpoints: Rainier proudly open for business as construction continues

The people and businesses of Rainier pride themselves as “The Spirited City on the Mighty Columbia.” But a summer of construction that will result in a much needed and improved A Street has tried that spirit. Through the construction disruption, the locally owned businesses and residents of A Street have been good natured and stoic with the confidence of the promise of a new and improved neighborhood. But that has come at a cost.

The multimillion-dollar A Street improvement project, overseen by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), will eventually bring a new vibrancy to A Street. Getting to that point has meant noise, dust and dirt, detours, and other hardships to residents and businesses located along the heart of historic Rainier. They have struggled to maintain access to their homes and establishments, suffered through loss of water service, had tranquil summer days pummeled by the noise and vibration of large pieces of equipment, and battled contractors who appear wholly focused on the project while seeming to not realize the discomfort and disruption that emanates from their work, disrupting the lives of the community.

The elected leaders of the city and city staff have vigilantly stood in support of Rainier and its residents and businesses, forewarning of weekend construction, detours, and other interruptions to life in our peaceful community. The city council has demanded and gotten the presence of ODOT officials at city council meetings to give first-hand updates on the project and to answer the concerns of citizens and council members.

The ongoing construction and the attendant hardship have had an impact on almost everyone along A Street, but merchants and hospitality businesses and their employees have borne the brunt of the pain, with customer traffic precipitously dropping during the construction. That has meant more than lost business revenue, it has meant decreased hours and tips for the hourly employees, the working men and women who we depend on to serve us food and beverage, help with everyday purchases, and provide professional services. The wages that pay their rent, feed their families, and shoe their children, have often been smaller than expected this summer, a time when good weather and the beauty of Rainier usually means an increase in traffic, customers and by extension, earnings.

Through it all, Rainier has remained open and will continue to do so as the construction moves to the final phase, the construction of a new street surface and new sidewalks, making A Street an even more attractive place for recreation, relaxation, and patronizing true locally owned businesses.

Between that new day on A Street and today, despite the ongoing construction, as mayor of Rainier, I am encouraging everyone to come to our town, particularly A Street. Have lunch or dinner, shop our local merchants, stroll the river front, enjoy our family friendly park. Support businesses that are truly local. Meet our friendly residents. Enjoy a day in our small but vibrant town and experience first-hand “The Spirited City on the Mighty Columbia.”

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