R-51 failure puts the brakes on city utilities

POULSBO — As entities across the state are scrambling to save transportation fixes nixed by the failure of Referendum 51, the City of Poulsbo is also looking at alternatives for utility extensions.

The statewide package that was downed at the polls Nov. 5 would have raised $7.8 billion in taxes to fund a laundry list of traffic projects across the state.

In Little Norway, a widening of State Route 305 from Bond Road to the southern city limits, including bike lanes and sidewalks, was among the planned expenditures of the money.

Despite the loss of the state funds, the city will nonetheless suggest to the State Department of Transportation that the project be phased in two parts. The proposal will likely go forward because Poulsbo has already completed designs and raised about half of the $15 million price tag, said City Engineer John Stephenson.

However, the city also intended to piggyback utility extensions to its Urban Growth Area, including Olhava, with the SR 305 widening. That plan also needs retooling. Public Works Superintendent Bill Duffy said the proposal was to install new water and sewer lines along SR 305 at the same time as the widening.

He said the work would have been less costly because digging would have already been taking place there, and he would have avoided the possibility of having to tear up the asphalt at a later date.

Duffy is now evaluating a number of alternatives to the original plan, but assured city council members that the failure of R-51 had not created an emergency in Poulsbo.

“We can delay the sewer project. We just packaged it with 305 because it had the potential to save us so much money. But we’ll have at least a couple of years to redesign that,” he said.

One sewer alternative could be running increased capacity through an existing pipe under Liberty Bay. However, a recent pressure test of the system showed that while the east barrel was fine its west barrel could not handle increased capacity. Duffy said it will take some time to evaluate if and how to move forward with that pipe.

“It is taking care of our immediate needs but five or 10 years down the road as our needs increase it looks like we’ll need more capacity,” Duffy said of the pipeline.

Duffy also assured city council members that utility extensions to the Olhava property are not a concern for Poulsbo in the near term, but could be farther into the future. He said he thinks water could be extended to the property if the SR 305 project were phased.

However, he added that since Olhava is just beginning to develop, the real needs of the property are fairly unknown and it is hard to gauge how soon an extension to the development will need to occur.

“If Olhava picks up in the next few years the pipe down through Lindvig will have some capacity problems,” he explained.

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