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Bremerton bricks shift, sink, split and slide
Years ago, downtown Bremerton streets were lined with bricks. Today, after millions of dollars worth of revitalization projects, brick pavers have made a comeback.
“They sort of came up with a theme or vision that included pavers and we’ve been trying to continue that theme with all of these follow-on projects,” said Ned Lever, a city engineer who usually works on utility issues. “We’re talking probably 10 or 15 years of projects downtown.”
The bricks, though, come at a cost.
Last month, South Bay Construction out of Olympia came back to Bremerton to repair a tabletop of brick pavers that was installed a year ago in the middle of Fourth Street between Park and Pacific avenues. The work was covered by warranty, but the contractor suggested the city use about $2,500 worth of its own money for binder sand between the pavers that wasn’t part of original scope of work.
“It helps keep the sand in place and prevent the bricks from moving,” Lever said. “So far, it’s working well. Time will tell I guess. When they put the brick in originally, they just put non-binding sand between all of the gaps.”
The Fourth Street Improvements Project bid did not have an itemized unit price for all of the materials. Instead, it was bid in one lump sum. The bid did note, though, that it would cost $25 per square foot for landscape pavers and $15 per square foot for roadway pavers that went beyond the original scope of work.
Lever said any number of things could have led to the bricks shifting, including water washing out the sand, street sweeping (which was kept to a minimum and avoided), wind or other factors.
One section of the sidewalk near the tabletop pavers includes a utility box that is sunken into the ground and lined with cut bricks that are completely loose and creating a tripping hazard. That spot has not been fixed yet.
The Fourth Street tabletop and failing sidewalk pavers nearby aren’t the only brickwork that has failed, though.
A few weeks ago, city crews had to repair several damaged bricks in a crosswalk in front of the main gate to the shipyard at Pacific and Farragut. That work was part of the ferry terminal project and not covered by warranty. Brick pavers all along the Pacific Avenue corridor, meanwhile, are “sinking” or shifting to create small lips that are potential tripping hazards for pedestrians entering crosswalks or streets. There is no warranty for that work either, which was part of separate projects. A downtown stroll along downtown sidewalks and crosswalks reveals several spots where bricks are either shifting or completely loose. Those familiar with brickwork would charitably call the work shoddy at best.
Amidst all of the downtown revitalization street projects, Lever and others got a glimpse of what streets in Bremerton looked like many years ago while ripping up roadways to make improvements that include the pavers.
“The pavement we were peeling up had pavers placed on their side with an asphalt overlay on top of it,” he said. “So it’s sort of like we’re going back in time a little bit.”
Lever talked about the reasoning behind going back to basics.
“It provides for more texture and different coloring to the street-scape,” he said. “It’s more of a mall boulevard look to downtown streets. You get that with brick. You don’t get that with asphalt. It has a softening effect. I think it does make it more inviting, but it might be more maintenance intensive than putting concrete and asphalt down. So, it’s a trade off.”
Lever noted that there could be any number of ways to make construction projects cheaper; namely, not having plantings, using cheap street lights and only using concrete and asphalt.
“It would be a clean, simple hardscape,” he said. “It would have a totally different look than what we have downtown right now. If you’re gonna bring these other items in, it’s going to cost a little more during construction, and sure, it’s going to be a little more costly to maintain. But, you’ve got a street that’s a little more inviting and it’s a friendly place to be.”
The current Pacific Avenue Project, which will bring improvements to the road from Sixth Street to Evergreen Park, includes more pavers.