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CAMAS — With earth movers growling at the far end of a field, Camas Mayor Scott Higgins pointed to the heavy machinery and said their work represents progress for his city.
The excavators belong to construction contractor Tapani, Inc., which broke ground this week on more than a half-mile of new road on the city's west side. The road, with two lanes and bike lanes, will extend from Southeast 20th Street through a field to a connection at Northwest 38th Avenue.
But the city promises more than a simple throughway: For one, the $4.8 million project will connect to the Southeast 192nd Avenue corridor, providing a straight shot from Vancouver to the campus of Fisher Investments, the California-based money management firm with $38 billion in equities.
The city's new stretch of road — the first of a two-phase project — will bisect land zoned for commercial development. The second phase of the project will extend Northwest Parker Street to Southeast Armstrong Road.
"We really believe this road will open up an area of our city for economic development, which wouldn't be available otherwise," Higgins said at Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony, attended by local government and business leaders. And, Higgins added, "We anticipate more growth out of the Fisher property."
After all, Fisher Investments is a major player in Camas. Its five-story office building is home to about 445 employees. The city has tried to tempt the company into constructing another building on its campus.
Steve Triplett, COO of Fisher Investments, said at the groundbreaking that the city's road project would lay the groundwork for the company's future growth in Camas. "This road will not only benefit the existing businesses in the area," Triplett said. "It will benefit everyone else who doesn't have a business."
Fisher Investments was one of three private partners on the project, along with Lugliani Life Insurance Trust and APC Sunrise Summit, which own adjacent land. They contributed about $100,000 to pay for the project's design, money that was credited against their transportation impact fees.
Lloyd Halverson, Camas' former city administrator, called the project the "culmination of a lot of work."
"It takes a lot of money to do something like this," he said.
Camas is using low-interest loans to pay for the construction end of the project. The state's Public Works Trust Fund, the Transportation Improvement Board and the Federal Highway Surface Transportation Program contributed loans to the roadwork.
The city's timeline calls for the road extension to be completed by October, Higgins said.