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SR 305 inches closer to receiving funding

POULSBO — Plans to widen State Route 305 have often moved about as slow as, well, traffic on SR 305 on any given afternoon.

Soon, however, the two may get something entirely new in common — a green light.

The City of Poulsbo’s bid to relieve congestion on SR 305 between Bond Road and Hostmark was recently named to a list of projects recommended for federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) and Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds by the Puget Sound Regional Council. If approved by the PSRC, Poulsbo will receive $2.8 million toward the SR 305 widening.

Poulsbo had applied for $3.5 million of the council’s total $36.9 million available, but staff were still happy about the recommendation, project engineer Andrzej Kasiniak said.

“This is great news. Everybody was really excited,” he commented. “We had a lot of support from many people in Kitsap County last week.”

The PSRC funding will still need to be approved by the full council. But just a funding recommendation is a major coup for Poulsbo as its highway project was up against some large contenders including the $14 million request to extend light rail between Tacoma and Lakewood and a $20 million request to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct seawall.

Interim Public Works Director John Stephenson added that the accomplishment was also a major one because Poulsbo was left off an initial round of recommendations for PSRC funding. Kasiniak did some calling around to find out why and realized that some of Poulsbo’s presentation had been misunderstood and thus graded wrong. After spending three days writing letters and calling PSRC board members, he was able to have SR 305 returned to the recommended list.

“I would have said, ‘Oh well. As a policy they don’t change their scores once they’re turned in,’” Stephenson commented. “(Kasiniak) had the ambition to ferret out what happened and get it corrected and he should be commended for that.”

The SR 305 widening has been delayed at least twice by financial difficulties in the last few years. The project would add at least one peak-hour HOV lane in each direction the two miles between Bond Road and the southern city limits, bike lanes the length of the project and sidewalks in front of developed areas.

The City of Poulsbo lacks all of the estimated $14-$15 million price tag but it does have about $2.2 million from the State Department of Transportation, $2.9 in federal grant dollars and $3.3 million in Olhava mitigation funds — a total of about $8.4 million. The new idea is to take the pot of money already available and leverage it to hopefully gain the balance through grant funding.

The potential $2.8 million from the PSRC, added to a recent award of $400,000 from the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, would leave only about a $3 million still needed. Kasiniak said he’s hopeful that the PSRC will keep Poulsbo on the list and not adjust the request and further. He said he was especially bolstered by support at last week’s meeting from voting entities like Kitsap Transit, the City of Bremerton, Kitsap County and even representatives from the Department of Transportation.

“Now, it’s in the hands of politicians,” Kasiniak said. “We did whatever we could to get this project funded.”

If the PSRC request is approved, Poulsbo staff hope the remainder of the money will be supplied by the DOT’s Transportation Improve-ment Board. The application for TIB funding is due Aug. 31 and will include a traffic study to show the potential impacts to Poulsbo and surrounding areas should the SR 305 project go forward. Kasiniak said he is working with TIP representatives to ensure that Poulsbo’s application has the best chance before the board. A decision on the TIB funding will be known by November but Stephenson said he thinks the other grant money will significantly help Poulsbo’s chances.

“They work on a cost-to-benefit basis so if we can get private funding and government funding for some of it, the DOT should easily be able to fund the balance,” Stephenson explained.

Planning and permitting is currently taking place for the SR 305 project in the hopes that construction can take place in the spring of 2006.

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