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Olympia approves street spending

OLYMPIA APPROVES street spending OLYMPIA – The Olympia City Council has approved spending nearly $25 million on road projects in the city this year and next year, one of the biggest such allocations in recent memory.

“The city is in a unique situation in that we have three major transportation projects that are or will be design-complete in a 12-month period from today,” David Riker, transportation director for the city, told the council Tuesday night.

The projects:

 • Building a roundabout at Boulevard and Log Cabin roads, along with new sidewalks and lighting. Work could start this year.

 • Building roundabouts on 18th Avenue at Fones and Hoffman roads. Work could begin this year.

 • Widening Harrison Avenue from Yauger Way to the College Station subdivision west of Kaiser Road. Work could start by mid-2010, according to a staff report.

The projects, estimated to cost $24.3 million, have sat on the drawing board for years, and Riker said the city has $11.9 million ready to spend on the work.

The city plans to pay for most of the remainder of the cost with a funding strategy it never has used before – borrowing against future impact-fee revenues. Riker predicts that would supply $466,000 each year. Impact fees are mandatory assessments that developers pay for transportation projects. An additional $265,800 annually would come from gas tax revenues.

“This is a very significant departure and a unique and innovative way to fund,” Councilman Joe Hyer said in an interview. Hyer, who sits on the council’s finance committee, has been an advocate for the projects. He says they will provide an economic stimulus and bring projects beyond the planning stage.

The council agreed Tuesday night to the idea of doing all the projects in a year, but that’s not its final word. That will come when the projects have gone through the bidding process and the council approves bids. Then, the council will have a firmer idea of how much the projects will cost.

Councilwoman Karen Messmer said she was concerned about committing so much impact-fee money toward it, saying she would like to see some reserved for other projects. But she said she liked the plan, and it passed unanimously.

BOULEVARD ROAD

Priority one is improving Boulevard Road, because drivers turning onto the busy street say they feel as though they’re taking their lives in their hands.

A 2006 study proposed spending $17.9 million for roundabouts at Log Cabin Road, Morse-Merryman Road and 22nd Avenue, as well as new pedestrian crossing islands and left-turn lanes.

The current proposal is to do only the improvements at Log Cabin Road, although Hyer has predicted that more improvements eventually would follow.

“Sounds like a good idea, because that’s a difficult intersection,” said Julie Hankins of the Cain Road Neighborhood Association. “I’m glad they’re trying to find ways to finally fund Boulevard.”

HARRISON AVENUE

Harrison Avenue has a problem: It’s wider east of Yauger Way and west of Kaiser Road, in front of the College Station subdivision. But there’s a bottleneck of narrower street in between. The plan is to widen Harrison to five lanes between Yauger Way and Kaiser Road, including sidewalks and bike lanes.

City staffers proposed funding the project last year, but the City Council turned it down, saying Boulevard was the city’s first priority.

18TH AVENUE

The project would put roundabouts on 18th Avenue at Fones and Hoffman roads and improve 18th Avenue between the intersections. Hyer has said the intersections are “a major chokepoint.”

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