By BOB SMITH
Kitsap News Group
PORT ORCHARD — The city of Port Orchard is inching closer toward the reality of a transformed Tremont Street corridor following a $2 million influx from the state Legislature’s 2017-19 transportation budget, approved unanimously by the Senate April 21 in Olympia.
The state House passed the bill by an 82-14 vote on April 20.
The funding was approved by legislators after conference members were finally able to negotiate an agreement. Gov. Jay Inslee is to sign the transportation budget in the next few weeks. The $2 million allocation for the Tremont Street widening project comes from the transportation bill’s local programs improvement projects budget.
The widening project will allow for expansion of the street from two lanes to four lanes. It also will add two roundabouts, bike lanes and sidewalks, and complete utility improvements, plus safety and capacity upgrades, he said.
Tremont Street is Port Orchard’s “gateway” arterial leading into the city. At capacity and regularly clogged during commuter rush hours from Highway 16 to Port Orchard Boulevard, civic leaders began 12 years ago to develop plans to expand the corridor. The first funding for the project was received from the federal government in 2005 to design, acquire right of way property and pay for an environmental review.
Other government funding has been essential over the past dozen years in moving the project forward. Money has come from the Puget Sound Regional Council, which contributed $1.7 million, and the State Transportation Improvement Board, which allocated $8 million to the Tremont Street project.
The state’s most recent $2 million award from the state will decrease the amount Port Orchard will need to borrow in order to complete the $18 million project, according to Mayor Rob Putaansuu.
“We’re down to borrowing $6.3 million for the project,” the mayor said earlier this month. The city would borrow the money through bonding debt.
Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard public works director, said the cost of construction itself — pending bids from contractors due on May 30 — will be under $18 million, with portions of the money directed to construction administration and management and overhead utility “undergrounding.”
He said the $2 million from the state Legislature is a critical component of the project’s funding structure. He said when bids are opened May 30, “We’ll all be waiting with bated breaths to see how they come in.”
Dorsey said the state’s $2 million does one of two things: “It helps us deal with bids higher than anticipated because (contractors) are busy and the economy has changed dramatically — and we’re seeing that bids are up. Even though we have a contingency in our $18 million (construction funding), if we encounter a bid that goes beyond the construction contingency, then that additional $2 million will be utilized to cover that ‘delta,’” or variable.
“If the bids come in where we hope they do, then the city would be able to reduce our (bond debt) amount, which ultimately reduces our 20-year debt service — which is a good thing.”
And that result, he said, would be beneficial for future transportation needs. Dorsey said it would allow more flexibility to deal not only “a moving target (the variable Tremont construction costs)” and possibly reduce debt service, but it would allow the city the financial ability to take on other projects.
But, as he reminded, “Until we open the bids, we won’t know.”
Dorsey said the city will publish bid requests in the Independent on May 5 and 12. Contractors must respond by 11 a.m. on May 30.
After bids are opened and the state Department of Transportation reviews them, he expects to deliver a staff report to the City Council at its meeting on June 13.
The next steps after getting the bonding structure in place, the public works director anticipated, would be receiving a notice to proceed with construction toward the end of June.
“I would expect to see a contractor out there mobilizing equipment, and staging and surveying right after the Fourth of July,” Dorsey said.
With a timeline that includes a one-month startup period, 22-month work window and one-month closeout, he expects the Tremont widening project to be completed by either July or August 2019.
Putaansuu, in an interview earlier this month, praised the assistance given by 26th District legislators Sen. Jan Angel, Rep. Michelle Caldier and Rep. Jesse Young in getting the $2 million allocation placed in the final state transportation bill.
“We’re very thankful for the legislative support that we’ve received,” Dorsey said, “for the $2 million, as well as the $8 million from the state Transportation Improvement Board. That’s the highest amount they’ve ever awarded.”
He lauded TIB members and Steve Gorchester, board executive director, for their involvement, as well as that of the Puget Sound Regional Council.
“It’s taken a long time to get to this point to finish the project design and get the construction money,” Dorsey said.
“On May 30, it’ll all come down to seeing the efforts of the past 12 years culminating into construction bids.”