KINGSTON — Construction delays have kept a section of West Kingston Road closed to traffic since April 2017, but things are looking up as county officials prepare to finish the West Kingston Bridge Project and reopen the road to traffic.
“We are going to open the bridge on the 30th,” said Steve Nichols, construction manager for Kitsap County Public Works.
“A little bit of paving, some guard rails and a little bit of railing on top of the bridge” were all that remained to be completed of the project, Nichols said. “We have to have all the safety items in place.”
When the West Kingston Bridge Project began in April 2017, it was expected that the road would remain closed to traffic until the following December. During an October 2017 transportation forum, Kitsap County Public Works Director Andrew Nelson said the project had encountered numerous obstacles that would delay completion until March 2018. When March arrived, another delay was announced, pushing completion out until the end of April.
The project’s second delay even prompted Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder to weigh in.
“We apologize for the further disruptions this project has caused the community, especially to the students and staff at the schools and our local emergency responders,” Gelder said in a March press release.
“Our goal is for the work to be done and done well. We place a huge amount of trust in our contractors to deliver on time. I’m personally disappointed that the timeline has slipped again.”
While the delays were regrettable, Nelson said Kingston’s cars wouldn’t be the only benefactor of the new bridge once the road opened back up.
“The end result of this project is not only going to improve the transportation system … but this is a marvelous environmental restoration project and what it’s doing for the upper reaches of the Carpenter Creek Estuary,” Nelson said.
“We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to deliver the project on schedule, but our priority has always been to ensure that we’re delivering, at end-state, a high-quality structure that’s really going to do a lot to improve not only the safety but the functionality of that road segment,”
When asked what lessons were learned from the project’s challenges, Nelson was hesitant to answer just yet.
“It may be just a little premature to talk about what we’ve learned from this project because we’re really … focused on getting the project complete and getting the road open,” Nelson said before noting that construction would not be concluded with the reopening of the road.
“There’s still going to be activity that’s going to be needed to be done after that. There’s stormwater, water quality features, street lighting, painting and other kinds of work that’s going to carry on past the 30th. But the road will be open.”
The public works director expected the ongoing construction to cause some lane closures but didn’t foresee any full road closures for an extended period of time after the April 30 reopening.
The project manager, Nichols, noted that he had spent most of his career as a contractor — and the West Kingston Bridge Project is not the most delayed he’s ever managed.
“I’ve been on lots of projects, ones that have been delayed even longer than this,” Nichols said.
But when asked if the bridge project was the most delayed public works project he’s been a part of, he paused for a moment, “The answer to that is yes.”
Nichols added: “It’s been a challenging project and that’s really all I want to say about it.”
Once completed, the new West Kingston Bridge will replace a small culvert with a two-span, 150-foot bridge, restoring tidal function to the Carpenter Creek Estuary, making more room for fish passage and widening the stream channel. It will also include a five-foot illuminated walking path and bike lane.
The project cost nearly $4.6 million, with the largest financial contribution coming from the U.S. Navy, which added $2.9 million.
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at email@example.com.