Quoting the March 14th edition of the Nisqually Valley News in a story titled “Bypass funding is back on track”, Mayor Ron Harding is quoted as saying, “It is quite possible they could start phase one of the construction project in 2009.”
BUT LESS LIKELY, IF ONE REALLY LOOKS AT THE PROCESS!
The construction of the Bypass has not YET been funded.
As reported here on March 11th, our State Legislature was able to secure right-of-way acquisition and design funding for the Bypass, as quoted in The Olympian on February 22, 2008, which was passed by the State Senate on February 27, 2008, according to Sen Marilyn Rasmussen. The Senate approved its version of the 2008 Supplemental Transportation Budget, which includes $9 million left over from the Highway 510 Loops right-of-way acquisitions. The $9 million is a prediction by WSDOT of how much will be left over after all of the right-of-way is acquired for the project. Right-of-way acquisition has not been completed, so we may not know until next year the status of any leftover balance.
Remember, this $33 million funding that was reinstated was for the Bypass design and right-of-way acquisition from the 2005 gas tax and was proposed in the Governor’s 2008-2009 supplemental budget. Our State Legislators first got a recommendation from WSDOT to reduce bypass funding from the Governors proposal, and thus help out other needy highway projects. The funding cut was incorporated in the first draft of House and Senate legislation. Our local Legislators then identified the funding cut as a mistake, and prevailed in getting that previously promised gas tax funding reinstated. However, the amount of funds and their allocations in 2008 remains identical to what was previously appropriated in 2007. They just prevented funding from being cut. There is an expected future surplus of funds for the right-of-way (r-o-w), which will stay in the r-o-w account, at least until the Legislature revisits the Transportation budget in early 2009. There is no official accelerated construction schedule at WSDOT, because there are still no construction funds allocated.
Construction of the Bypass is still unfunded.
Some were under the impression (apparently including Sen. Rasmussen) that some r-o-w funds would be moved into a construction account, so Phase 1 could start right away. However, that did not happen when the Transportation Budget reached the Senate-House Conference committee. The extra money was left for the r-o-w, and one can only speculate why, however a good guess is that the r-o-w acquisition is still ongoing and not complete. Another reason to consider is that the gas tax money is supposed to be designated for design and r-o-w only.
Bypass construction funding will likely be a topic among our State Legislature in the January to April, 2009 budget session. There is a strong potential Rep. Campbell and Sen. Rasmussen will deliver something to their constituents in 2009 in the form of construction funds. If that is the case in the 2009 passed legislation, that bill would go to the Governor’s desk for signing in late April-early May, 2009.
Then, for a phased approach, the Phase 1 construction documents need to be assembled, reviewed and approved by the WSDOT Regional office, then the WSDOT Headquarters office.
Next, the construction package is put out on advertisement. From the first day of advertisement to awarding the contract, to execution of a contract, another 2 months is typically the time required for a road the size of Yelm’s Bypass Phase 1 (Mud Run to Cullen Road).
If all of the timelines are met perfectly, there is an outside chance clearing and grading could start in late 2009 during the rainy season, with paving in Spring, 2010.
This potential assumes all of the right-of-way for Phase 1 is owned by WSDOT before the construction advertisement. According to a source at WSDOT, this may already be the case for the Phase 1 property.
WSDOT Bypass Project Manager Bill Elliott told the City Council on November 13, 2007 that a Phase 1 buildout timeline was March, 2010, quoting the City Council Minutes.
To read the Minutes, click here, then click MINUTES, then November 13, 2007.
WSDOTs construction timeframe of 2013-2015 for a non-phased approach is still the only official schedule in place at present. The schedule has not yet been revised based upon an expected early completion of r-o-w phase, but that is a potential as we head toward 2009.
Were Phase 1 to be built, all traffic would intersect Yelm Ave. West at Cullen Rd., an intersection to which there is no planned traffic signal. That would have the potential to create a bottle-neck of immense proportions, unless the City of Yelm diverts Phase 1 traffic prior to Cullen, onto Killion. The only relief Yelm would see in a 2-phased construction approach with Phase 1 would be to get around the High Schools traffic.
What does the city gain by taking bypass traffic only to Cullen Rd. in a two-phased buildout?
Our city/county/state officials can say we are “making progress” and “delivering on our promises” without really adding additional capacity to the highway, something this writer has stated several times is the main issue. The real improvement for Yelm will not happen until all of the right-of-way at the east end is secured, and Phase 2 is completed – which is still in the 2015-16 time frame, quoting the City Council minutes.
So, there still are over 8 years before Yelm’s Wal-Mart traffic will be mitigated with a Bypass.
This blog entry has been fact-checked by a source at WSDOT.
WHAT SAY YOU?