When the paint dried Tuesday afternoon on a new crosswalk in downtown Santa Rosa, the city officially completed work on a $2.5 million project to prepare the downtown for more intensive development.

Workers put the finishing touches on the new faux-brick crosswalks at Third and D streets, wrapping up just before an expected three straight days of rain.

"We barely got in under the wire," said Tim Bowlin, an employee of Asphalt Impressions of Sacramento, the company that installed the crosswalks at three intersections along Third Street between E and B streets.

The work caps a 1?-year-long project to upgrade the aging water and sewer lines beneath a busy three-block stretch of Third Street.

The larger-diameter pipes will accommodate future downtown development and improve water pressure for firefighting, City Engineer Otto Bertolero said.

The street is home to two city-owned sites eyed for significant downtown development. The site of the former White House department store across from the library was once considered for a 12-story condominium project and parking garage before that deal stalled in 2009. Two blocks west, the monolithic former AT&T building awaits its long-delayed transformation into a 10-story mixed-use tower dubbed Museum on the Square.

The road reconstruction caused traffic detours, delays and inconvenience for some area businesses in the summer and fall of 2011. But otherwise the project went smoothly and the rebuilt road was completed by the end of the year.

"It was a whole redo of the street," Bertolero said.

All that remained was the installation of the new crosswalks. But instead of replacing them with inlaid brick common at other downtown intersections, the city tried what it hopes will be a more durable solution.

Even the strongest bricks crack under abuse from thousands of vehicles per day, requiring their regular replacement, said Lionel Rocha, an inspector for Santa Rosa's transportation and public works department.

Instead, the city hired a company to stamp brick-shaped impressions into the new asphalt. A large infrared machine heats a section of asphalt to 280 degrees, then a 700-pound form is tamped into the soft asphalt, creating a brick-shaped pattern.

The pattern is painted with four coats of a brick color, while the border is painted to look like a concrete apron, explained Bowlin, the employee of Asphalt Impressions.

The design is for aesthetics, so it matches the other downtown intersections, and safety, so pedestrians have a highly visible path to travel, Rocha explained.

At about $20,000 each, the intersections were an extra expense, but they're worth it, Rocha said.

"This is a great product," he said. "They'll pay for themselves in lower maintenance costs."

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. OnTwitter @citybeater