Equipment operators strike halts work on Tremont project

Other road projects in Kitsap County also affected by the work stoppage.

PORT ORCHARD — The long-anticipated finish of the Tremont Street widening project most likely will keep commuters hanging just a bit longer after equipment operators assigned to the effort went on strike last week.

A tentative contract offer to the union representing mechanics, surveyors and heavy equipment operators — the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 — was rejected by its membership. That rejection, in turn, has impacted the construction crew working on the Tremont project. Also affected by the labor quarrel are pavers, as well as concrete pumpers and hoisters, who work under the Western Washington Master Labor Agreement. They also joined union members by walking off the job.

As of Friday, Aug. 31, the Tremont project still was on hold due to the equipment operators being off the job, said Mark Dorsey, the city of Port Orchard’s public works director, said.

Their walk-off has put a damper on the Tremont project just as the first visible signs of progress — paving work on one of the project’s roundabouts — had begun.

The timing of the strike cut both ways for both the city and its commuters. On a positive note, the first layer of asphalt had been laid on the roundabout at the intersection of South Kitsap Boulevard and Tremont Street, ensuring that motorists won’t have to deal with muddy conditions later into the rainy season if the strike drags on. On the other hand, a strike is pushing the project’s finish line further to the right on the work schedule just as the new roadway was finally rounding into shape.

Dorsey said the strike isn’t just a worry for the Tremont project, but a major issue for other road projects in Kitsap County.

“A lengthy delay will be problematic for all of Western Washington,” Dorsey said of the strike. “We’ve already issued four non-working days for last week and anticipate this to continue.”

The director said it was too early to know how the work stoppage would affect the $22 million Tremont project’s end date in the spring. Two roundabouts, including another at Tremont’s intersection with Pottery Avenue, highlight the road project that will widen the major Port Orchard-to-State Highway 16 arterial from two to four lanes and include sidewalk and bus-rider additions and improvements.

Another road widening project in the county affected by the work stoppage — this one on Silverdale Way — was nearing completion. The $11 million project was, in fact, one month short from being finished. Paving had yet to begin on that effort to widen the street from two to five lanes.

Other projects affected by the strike in Kitsap County include work to widen shoulders on Miller Road and Fletcher Bay Road on Bainbridge Island, and a retaining wall project on the west side of Silverdale Way.