Residents near a proposed Battle Ground road project say they're worried about the effect it will have on safety and local sports fields adjacent to Chief Umtuch Middle School.
The project, in part, calls for punching a road between state highway 503 and North Parkway Avenue, which would cut past property owned by Battle Ground Public Schools. The city council will discuss aspects of the project at its meeting tonight.
The idea has been in the planning stage for years, with backing from the school district, which sees the road as a key to freeing up a new route for school buses. The road would also alleviate congestion on Main Street for all motorists.
The project remains in the early stages, according to city officials. Actually moving it forward will depend on whether the Legislature passes a transportation package that earmarks money for it.
The project is part of the city's six-year transportation plan and is a cornerstone in its plan to decrease east-west congestion.
A proposed $12.3 billion transportation package released last Thursday by Senate majority coalition leaders sets aside $7.5 million for the project, but there are questions about whether the package will be approved by the end of the session.
Doug Shannon, who lives in a cul-de-sac next to the district's Lewisville campus, the former home to a middle school, said he's concerned about building a road through a neighborhood where there was never traffic before.
"There's no way this street will just be a little connector," Shannon said, adding that he expects heavy traffic if the road is built.
He's not alone. Others are worried about traffic zipping along the road, which would be located near heavily used sports fields.
The residents have started a website, Neighbors United, which they've used to circulate an online petition. The site is at http://igwsolutions.com/wp.
Mayor Shane Bowman said the neighbors' concerns were premature because the project is in an early stage and no designs for it exist.
The project would involve more than building a road, he argued. It would also fix other nearby roads and eliminate a stoplight at Northwest 12th Avenue.
"All of this has to do with us having to remove the stoplight at 12th Avenue," Bowman said. "The state put this on the transportation plan."
The stoplight, located on a state highway, was intended to be temporary. After years of it being in place, Bowman said the state wants it gone.
Others have argued that a better course for the city would be sprucing up existing roads. That idea has come from within the city.
"I think we should be taking care of our existing infrastructure before building new roads," Councilor Adrian Cortes said. "I know we have to plan for the community, but at the same time, if there's a part of our community that doesn't support this, we can't ignore that."
His daughter plays soccer on one of the nearby fields, so he shares some of the safety concerns voiced by neighbors.
It's not always possible for the city to spend money fixing existing roads Bowman said, because the state prioritizes giving money to new construction projects, not maintenance.
While the road project is dependent on receiving state money, Bowman said he's not optimistic that will happen during this legislative session because of the political climate. "Those guys aren't exactly getting along right now," he said.
A public hearing for the project is tentatively scheduled for March 3.