SR-14 access improvements are included in state budget

Open houses will be held in Washougal

Several City of Washougal leaders are pleased Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a state supplemental transportation budget that includes funding for State Route 14 access improvements.

The amount, $7.5 million, had previously been approved for a 27th Street extension and rail overpass. The total cost of that project would be $16.6 million, and it was uncertain whether additional state or federal funding could be secured to complete it.

The $7.5 million could pay for the construction of roundabouts at 15th and 32nd streets, as well as an environmental and options analysis to explore various solutions for a second phase of the project to construct a connection near 27th, and possibly other alternatives along the corridor.

City Administrator David Scott has said the two roundabouts would cost an estimated $6 million. That would leave $1.5 million for an options analysis on 27th.

Washougal City Councilman Dan Coursey was among the city leaders who visited with legislators in Olympia in late January.

“City Action Days,” sponsored by the Association of Washington Cities, was held Jan. 27 and 28. Coursey, along with Mayor Sean Guard, and council members Brent Boger, Paul Greenlee, Joyce Lindsay and Jennifer McDaniel met with legislators including Rep. Liz Pike and Sens. Curtis King and Ann Rivers.

City officials also met with Reps. Bruce Chandler, Norm Johnson, Jim Moeller and Brandon Vick. Scott and Washougal Finance Director Jennifer Forsberg were in Olympia, to provide information regarding the city’s request to transfer the funding to SR-14 access improvements.

Coursey said he has never been a fan of roundabouts, and he initially opposed them.

“I agreed to the move of the funds based on helping our partners at the port in achieving our joint development goals there, also improved safety and access to Highway 14,” he said. “To my surprise, when I put out public messaging for opinions on the roundabouts there appeared to be more support for them than in years’ past. Some of the people that once opposed them now supported them based on the port’s need.”

Coursey said Port Executive Director David Ripp and commissioners, as well as the city of Washougal administration, want the roundabouts to improve access to the port by enhancing commercial truck and regular vehicular traffic, for significant development at the former Hambleton Lumber Company property (future Washougal Waterfront Park and trail and a mixed use project) and Steigerwald Commerce Center.

“The port, of course, is a major source of revenue to the city,” Coursey said.

Ripp had traveled to Olympia, to request the funding be transferred to the SR-14 improvement project.

“It will definitely benefit the industrial area, as well as the safety issues that have plagued these intersections for years,” he said.

Council member Dave Shoemaker said he supported the mayor’s efforts, but he did not travel to Olympia.

“I am glad that we were successful,” Shoemaker said, Monday. “I still have concerns about roundabouts on Highway 14, and I’m still looking for alternatives.”

Greenlee said the request for the funds to be transferred from the 27th Street overpass to SR-14 corridor improvements was an “easy ask.”

“It simply changed the project name,” he said. “There was no change in the amount or timing of funding. It is all in the same legislative district, all in the same jurisdiction.

“Some of our senators and representatives seemed surprised and relieved that this was all we were asking for,” Greenlee added.

He said the project will improve safety on SR-14 within Washougal and improve access and freight mobility for the port industrial park.

“I think we will also gain the opportunity to landscape and mark the project areas to enhance awareness of Washougal’s attractiveness for commerce, industry and recreation,” Greenlee said.

Bart Gernhart, the Washington State Department of Transportation assistant regional administrator for engineering, said open houses will be scheduled, to gather community input about the SR-14 access improvements.

Before that, Gernhart will meet with Washougal and port officials to discuss roles and responsibilities for moving the project forward.

“During that meeting, we will also talk about goals and objectives,” Gernhart said. “This is just the first in a series of meetings to help clarify expectations and create a plan for successfully delivering a project that will have community support.”