Monday, February 17, 2020
Feb. 17, 2020

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Vancouver OKs contract for Mill Plain improvement project

Plan designed to improve traffic flow west of I-205

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

The Vancouver City Council approved a $3.65 million road work contract at its meeting Monday evening, advancing a project aimed at improving traffic flow on Mill Plain Boulevard west of Interstate 205.

The stretch of road — one of the most heavily traveled in the city, with an average of 39,000 cars daily — will see several upgrades.

“It’s a very busy intersection,” said Streets and Transportation Manager Ryan Lopossa. “We’re very sensitive to how much traffic goes through this area.”

A major part of the plan includes extending the southbound I-205 onramp to build a longer queue for eastbound travelers trying to get on the freeway.

The project will also include extending Northeast 104th Avenue where it forms a T-shaped intersection with Mill Plain Boulevard, looping it around to the east to connect with Southeast 105th Avenue just south of Mill Plain. Crews would also widen Mill Plain Boulevard and cut off access to the thoroughfare from Southeast 107th Avenue.

The plan includes a few more minor changes, as well, with proposals to enhance lighting, pedestrian safety and accessibility; crews will install a short median on Mill Plain Boulevard from Northeast 104th Avenue to just east of Southeast 105th Avenue and new traffic signals at all the impacted intersections.

The $3.65 million contract was awarded to Rotschy Inc., a Vancouver-based general contractor that often partners with the city on transportation and public works construction. Rotschy submitted the lowest bid out of seven companies who bid for the project.

The next step, Lopossa said, will see representatives from Rotschy and the city get together for a preconstruction meeting and an onsite inspection before any work begins.

“Realistically, I think we’re probably still at least a month out before you’ll start seeing some activity out there,” Lopossa said.

A stipulation in the contract will require the company to leave the area open to traffic during construction, but drivers may see some single-lane closures.

Crews will likely start with some of the more minor changes first, Lopossa said, like traffic signals and ADA-compliant ramps. Anything that requires paving — including the extensions of the I-205 onramp and Southeast 104th Avenue — will need to be done during the dry months of July and August.

“The idea is to have this whole thing wrapped up sometime in September,” Lopossa said.

When all is said and done, the entire project should cost $4.6 million.

Right-of-way snarl

The Mill Plain Boulevard project made headlines in May, when city leaders hit a snag on the right-of-way acquisition process.

Moving forward with the proposed changes would have required cooperation from 13 private property owners along the route. One owner had declined to sell part of their parcel to the city, and the city council responded by condemning the holdout property, located at 10605 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd.

When Lopossa spoke with The Columbian last year, he said he was optimistic that he could still work out a deal with the parcel’s owner, United Merchant Corp. The road work project would require a 15-foot strip of land, but the existing structure on the property could remain standing.

On Monday, Lopossa confirmed that the city had been able to strike a deal with United Merchant Corp. It involved a somewhat unusual tool in the right-of-way acquisition toolbox — a land swap.

In exchange for the 15-foot strip of land required for the Mill Plain Boulevard project, the city gave United Merchant Corp. an adjacent parcel. Vancouver had already acquired the parcel, the corporation’s neighbor to the east, through the earlier right-of-way acquisition process, and gave it to the holdout property owner (minus the section needed for the road work).

“We rolled that parcel into the compensation package,” Lopossa said.

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