State funding could be redirected to SR-14 corridor

Roundabouts at 15th and 32nd streets could be considered

The Washougal City Council voted 7-0 last night, to authorize Mayor Sean Guard to request that $7.5 million in state funding be redirected.

The request — for the money allocated for a 27th Street extension and rail overpass project to go to a State Route 14 corridor project instead — will be made to state legislators this week, in Olympia.

The total cost of the 27th Street project would be $16.6 million, and it is uncertain whether additional state or federal funding could be secured to complete it.

Washougal and Washington State Department of Transportation staff recently revisited the concept of adding roundabouts along the SR-14 corridor at 15th and 32nd streets, and a yet to be determined solution in the vicinity of 27th Street.

If the legislature redirects the $7.5 million, the funding could pay for the construction of the two roundabouts 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 said roundabouts at 15th and 32nd streets would cost an estimated $6 million.

“That would leave $1.5 million for an options analysis on 27th,” he said.

Guard said the improvements could be completed in the next two to three years.

City Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he has a problem with roundabouts at 15th and 32nd streets, but he supports the attempt to get the money redirected locally.

Patrick McGrady, with Reid Middleton engineers, said there is less exhaust from vehicles that use roundabouts, because they do not stop as often as vehicles at intersections.

Bart Gernhart, the WSDOT assistant regional administrator for engineering, said the legislature has directed WSDOT to develop “practical solutions” to address issues at lower costs.

During public comments last night, Harvey Olson, a former Seattle police officer, asked city councilors to not make any decisions about roundabouts until they receive accident statistics.

Bill Durgan, a commercial truck driver, said if vehicles are supposed to travel at bicycle speed around roundabouts, SR-14 should be renamed the “Washougal Bike Path.”

Courtney Wilkinson, president of the Downtown Washougal Association, said the DWA board supports the shifting of funds for the SR-14 safety project.

“It would have a positive impact on downtown and improve traffic flow,” she said.

Wes Hickey, with Lone Wolf Investments, LLC, said he is in favor of roundabouts at the 15th and 32nd street intersections, because they would improve safety and traffic flow.

“Landscaped roundabouts in Washougal on SR-14 create a true entrance to the community and the Gorge,” he said.

Lone Wolf owns several properties in downtown Washougal, including Washougal Town Square and 1887 Main.

Charlie Bishop, executive vice president of manufacturing at Pendleton Woolen Mills, said he supports the shifting of funding for roundabouts at 15th and 32nd streets, for the benefit of truck traffic, customers and employees. The mill and store are located at Two Pendleton Way, just off the intersection of SR-14 and 15th Street.

On Jan. 19, the Port of Camas-Washougal Commission voted 2 to 1, in favor of directing Executive Director David Ripp to write a letter in support of having the state funds redirected to SR-14 projects.

Commissioner John Spencer said the roundabouts would benefit the port by improving access to the industrial park. He said he is in favor of the concept of roundabouts and shifting money, assuming that the Washougal City Council is also in favor of it.

Commissioner Bill Ward voted against the new business/discussion item that was added after the original agenda was distributed. He said he had questions and wanted to wait.

Commissioner Bill Macrae-Smith said he liked the information presented by City Administrator David Scott during the port meeting.

“We should keep things moving, even in smaller chunks,” Macrae-Smith said, regarding the roundabouts that will cost less than the 27th Street overpass.

“Keep the rock rolling down the street,” he added.

Larry Keister, of Washougal, said the roundabouts would provide economic benefits to Washougal and the port by slowing traffic on the highway and providing visitors with opportunities to see “all we have to offer.”

Richard Hamby, of Washougal, said the roundabouts would provide easy access for people driving east and west on SR-14.

He referred to the 54?40′ Brewing Co. tasting room, located in the port’s industrial park Building 14, 3801 S. Truman St.

“After a day in the gorge, the brewery could attract people heading west [along SR-14],” Hamby said.

He said time is of the essence for the commissioners to issue a statement of support for the roundabouts to the legislators. The session, which started Jan. 11, is expected to last 60 days.