Friday, September 18, 2020
Sept. 18, 2020

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Battle Ground congestion project faces gap in funding

New state budget didn’t include money city was expecting for 502-303 work

By , Columbian Staff Writer, and
, Columbian political reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Traffic crawls through the intersection of state Highway 502 and state Highway 503 in Battle Ground on Tuesday. The intersection is known to back up regularly, and the second phase of the city’s congestion relief project in that area was scheduled to start this year, but Battle Ground didn’t receive funding it was expecting in the recently passed state budget. Now the project could be delayed if the city doesn’t come up with money from the state in the next few months.
Traffic crawls through the intersection of state Highway 502 and state Highway 503 in Battle Ground on Tuesday. The intersection is known to back up regularly, and the second phase of the city’s congestion relief project in that area was scheduled to start this year, but Battle Ground didn’t receive funding it was expecting in the recently passed state budget. Now the project could be delayed if the city doesn’t come up with money from the state in the next few months. Photos by Nathan Howard/The Columbian Photo Gallery

BATTLE GROUND — It was a relief to many when the Legislature adjourned its 105-day session and passed a budget with minutes to spare, but Battle Ground Mayor Mike Dalesandro feels his city was left behind.

The city had requested $1.3 million in inflationary adjustment for the state Highway 502 and state Highway 503 congestion relief project, but did not receive it. The project was expected to cost $7.7 million and be entirely funded by the state’s Connecting Washington transportation funding package. The first of the project’s three phases wrapped up in late 2017. The second phase — the most costly of the three — is scheduled to start this year.

Dalesandro said it’s not at the point where the project has to be put on hold, but that’s a definite possibility if the city can’t secure funds within the upcoming year.

“It was our top legislative property (getting this money),” Dalesandro said. “We were told the transportation budget was tight, but our project was solid because it already started. We scheduled the whole thing (based) on when money would come in.”

Dalesandro said there will be a gap in funding, but the plan is to go ahead with Phase 2, as scheduled. If there’s still a gap next year, the city could potentially use city funds to fill that in.

If the gap remains beyond that, it could put the third phase of the project in jeopardy.

The two highways meet downtown to form the busiest intersection in Battle Ground, with 52,000 vehicles per day. The second phase of the project will add right-turn lanes in each direction at the intersection, extend the left-turn lane from Main Street to West Eighth Avenue and extend Southwest First Way east to Southwest 12th Avenue.

Now the project is facing a $2.3 million gap in funding, said Mark Herceg, acting public works director and city engineer for Battle Ground. Construction costs have escalated, and this phase of the project will now cost somewhere closer to $10 million.

Herceg said one way to look at an intersection’s effectiveness is to look at its delay times. He said those times receive letter grades similar to grades in school. When the city last looked at the intersection in January, the intersection had a delay time of 50.5 seconds, which places the intersection service level grade at D, which ranges from 35 to 55 seconds. That means the intersection has a noticeable delay and unstable flow, Herceg said.

The project’s first phase extended Northwest Fifth Way, just north of Fred Meyer, east to connect to Highway 503, giving the shopping center an additional right-in and right-out access point. The traffic light at the intersection of Northwest 12th Avenue and West Main Street was removed, and the median on Main Street was extended so drivers can no longer make a left turn from Main onto 12th.

Phase 3, which is scheduled for 2020-21, will add a road connecting Highway 503 with North Parkway Avenue, just north of Battle Ground High School, to help further relieve congestion on Main Street by providing an alternate route.

Part of what upset Dalesandro is late money that came in for other projects. Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, was able to secure additional funding for the Interstate 5 Bridge project. Days before the Legislature was scheduled to adjourn, both the House and Senate versions of the state’s two-year transportation budget contained about $8 million for an I-5 Bridge project office. By the time the Legislature adjourned, the total amount dedicated to replacing the bridge ballooned to $35 million.

Rep. Brandon Vick, a Felida Republican who represents Battle Ground, said that the 502-503 project is going to have cost overruns. He said that it makes more sense for those overruns to be addressed when the Legislature passes a supplemental budget next year.

Sen. Ann Rivers, a La Center Republican who also represents the area, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Meanwhile traffic keeps building in Battle Ground.

“It’s critical to not just Battle Ground, but all of north county,” Dalesandro said. “Olympia made a promise to our community that this was going to happen. We’re just asking them to keep their promise.”

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