City hires consultant to finish study on freeway ramps in west Olympia

The Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire a consultant and pave the way for more freeway ramps in west Olympia.

Puyallup-based firm Parametrix will spend the next 18-24 months completing the 2010 West Olympia Interchange Justification Report. That report stems from the West Olympia Access Study, which evaluated transportation issues such as traffic volume and congestion.

The city will pay the consultant no more than $1.5 million to complete the report. Upon completion, the city will have a better idea of designs and costs for building new on- and off-ramps at U.S. 101, said Randy Wesselman, transportation engineer.

The freeway ramps are years away from construction, but the consultant’s report is seen as a key step in moving forward, Wesselman said. The first phase of the project would add on-ramps and off-ramps at Kaiser Road and U.S. 101, with construction 10-15 years away, Wesselman said. The second phase is about 20 years away and would extend an off-ramp connecting Black Lake Boulevard to Yauger Way.

The ultimate goal is to alleviate congestion at Black Lake Boulevard and Cooper Point Road, which is expected to increase alongside population growth, according to city reports.

Wesselman said actual construction of the freeway ramps will largely depend on state and federal funding. Just the ramps at Kaiser Road could cost at least $26 million, he said, noting that the city will need to purchase some right-of-way property. The state owns a majority of the right-of-way property along the proposed Kaiser Road ramp area, he said.

“We have a long way to go with a fundraising package on this,” Wesselman said. “We don’t expect a bucket of money to fall out of the sky.”

Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said the report, once finished, will put the city in a position to compete for federal and state funding.

“This is our initial investment to get ourselves in a pipeline,” Buxbaum said.

Aside from examining the environmental impact of the proposed project, the consultant will involve stakeholders in the process, such as citizens and businesses in west Olympia, Wesselman said.

“The more informed everyone is,” said Councilwoman Jeannine Roe, “the better.”