Vancouver street projects see progress

Three efforts long sought by city officials, planners move slowly toward construction, but results likely still years away

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Three road projects that have been on the city's to-do list for years are inching closer to construction, the Vancouver City Council heard Monday during a workshop, but it will be a few years before residents see results.

A stretch of Northeast 18th Street, from Four Seasons Lane to 136th Avenue, and a portion of Southeast First Street, from 164th Avenue to 192nd Avenue, are scheduled to be widened so they meet urban arterial standards, said Brian Carlson, the city's public works director.

Those standards include two travel lanes in each direction, plus sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

A third project involves an upgrade to Mill Plain Boulevard, between Northeast 104th Avenue and Chkalov Drive, with a goal of improving traffic flow to the onramp to Interstate 205.

It includes removing a traffic signal at 105th Avenue, Carlson said.

The city has received two grants totaling $4.2 million for design, right-of-way acquisition and construction for the Mill Plain project, with an additional $395,000 in local money.

Construction on the Mill Plain project could begin in 2015, while the work on Northeast 18th Street is slated to start in 2016. The First Street project will start the final design process in November and the environmental process will be finished next year. Once those two phases are done the city will start to apply for grants for the First Street project.

Work in segments

An environmental assessment and traffic study have been done for the 51/2-mile-long Northeast 18th Street corridor, and work will be done in segments.

The segment from Four Seasons Lane to 136th Avenue has an estimated cost of $11 million, Chris Malone, a senior engineer, told the council.

A tentative financing package includes $6 million in federal and state grants, $1.12 million from developer contributions (money paid by developers in lieu of doing mitigation), $1.6 million in transportation impact fees and $2.28 million in local funds. The project will require the city to buy right of way from Joe Beaudoin of Joe's Place Farms and compensate him for some loss of farmland, and negotiate with Bonneville Power Administration, which has a 300-foot-wide transmission line easement on the south side of 18th Street.

Malone said appraisals will be finished by December. He said if the city can buy the required land by April 2015, construction could start the following year.

The 18th Street project, which has been put on hold both because of the city's shortage of money for transportation improvements and the recession, was redesigned to lessen the impact on Beaudoin's farm, Carlson said.

Both the 18th Street and the First Street projects represent worthwhile efforts to improve east-west arterials in the city, said Mayor Tim Leavitt.

The city has received two federal grants totaling $1.6 million for design and limited right-of-way acquisitions for First Street, with $670,000 in local money. The city could start buying property for the street expansion next year.