I-976 puts Johnson Parkway project on hold

The City of Poulsbo’s Johnson Parkway Project, which would see the construction of a roundabout along SR 305 at the Johnson Road intersection, is one of a number of transportation projects that has been delayed following the passage of Initiative 976.

Diane Lenius, city engineer for the City of Poulsbo presented an update on Jan. 22 for the project and outlined the impacts of I-976 on the city’s project.

“We’re receiving $5.3 million in state funds. It’s a small project in [WSDOT’s] numbers but it’s a big project for the city and it’s significant,” Lenius said. “The state has put all projects on hold that weren’t previously under contract, a high safety risk, or a preservation project. So, unfortunately, the bar was really high and we did not make it past that hurdle.”

The total cost of the project is estimated to be between $18.5 million to $20 million.

The $5.3 million from the state would be coming from the Connecting Washington fund, a $16 billion funding package established in 2015 to invest in enhancements for state transportation systems and maintaining critical infrastructure. The 16-year program is primarily funded through the gas tax increase that went into effect in the summer of 2016.

The purpose of the so-called “$30 car tab initiative” was to limit annual license fees for vehicles under 10,000 pounds to $30, base vehicle taxes on their Kelly Blue Book value rather than 85 percent of the manufacturers suggested retail price and repeal authorization for regional transit authorities to impose vehicle excise taxes.

It’s that last provision that has put the Johnson Parkway and other infrastructure projects across the state on hold, due to many of the projects receiving grants from regional, state and federal transportation authorities.

The City of Poulsbo has a commitment to complete the Johnson Parkway project within 10 years, which will include the creation of a roundabout and a pedestrian tunnel.

According to Lenius the best case scenario at this time would be that the delay would only last three to six months (from Nov. 2019).

“An early decision in session would allow us to move forward and advertise in the early part of the year, obviously if it gets kicked to later in the year, we typically don’t advertise during the peak of construction. It’s not generally the best time to get the attention of your contractors,” Lenius said.

Poulsbo City Councilmember Ed Stern shared his concerns about the ability to get the project going after having it on hold for months.

“Once you start a construction project, and anyone whose done a remodel let alone built a house, you know that if you stop that project … if you button that up, it’s very difficult to unbutton it. ” Stern said.

Stern also stated that he believes the best option for the City and this project moving forward is the legal state supreme court cases against I-976.

“Our best opportunity does reside with the state supreme court, I’m not sure we’re going to get much relief or leadership out of the executive branch or the legislature of our state,” Stern said to Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson.

Erickson noted that she will be meeting with the state secretary on Jan. 31 about a multitude of things, among them, the Johnson Parkway Project.

“The executive branch of the state of Washington is punishing the voters, [that’s] what’s going on, okay, lets really talk truth here,” Erickson said. “They’re taking money from every source because they’re trying to plug a hole.”