State says money to widen Hwy 305 is not in jeopardy

According to the Department of Transportation, the $7 million earmarked for Poulsbo work remains intact--for now.

POULSBO — While news has been bleak concerning new construction projects throughout Washington, Poulsbo’s State Route 305 project is still proving to be a lasting ray of sunshine.

State funding for the extensive widening proposal, which is set to get underway during the 2003 construction season, was intact as of last week as was the federal money set aside for the work.

“I talked to (Department of Transportation Project Coordinator) John Wynands last Thursday and confirmed that the $7 million in state funds was okay,” explained John Stephenson, city engineer.

The money represents half of the $14 million plan to make SR 305 five lanes through Poulsbo via two new High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes for both north and southbound traffic. Currently, the often congested highway has three lanes.

In addition to the state match, the project is reliant on $3 million in federal discretionary funds and approximately $3.5 million in local developer funds.

The local money, Stephenson said, will come from First Western — a company which has thus far proved to be the monkey wrench in the machinery to build an Olympic College branch campus at Olhava in Poulsbo.

Despite a total lack of progress at the 215-acre site and putting $13 million in state education funds in jeopardy for the campus, Stephenson said the SR 305 project could progress without First Western’s initial funding support.

“The state will front that portion if the developer doesn’t start construction before road work starts,” Stephenson added, noting that the money would then have to reimbursed to the state by the developer.

But having such entities as First Western and the federal government shoulder half of the financial responsibility of the project is a primary reason why the DOT is still committed to State Route 305.

“That’s why it prioritized as well as it did,” the city engineer explained. “The state prioritizes these kinds of projects on a cost-to-benefit ratio. Because they are basically paying 50 cents on the dollar, it did very well.”

The Department of Transportation is currently working to secure permits for the 2003 project, he added. The permitting process for the widening work is an extensive one because of stricter guidelines from the Department of Ecology. New laws severely limit any construction near salmon-bearing waterways.

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