Traffic improvement projects scheduled for 2009

Sequim Public Works Department has unveiled the city’s six-year traffic improvement program but funding in some cases remains a mystery.

The plan stretches from 2009-2014 with 30 outlined projects that will undergo preliminary engineering, right of way purchases and construction within that time span.

There are six projects scheduled to begin in 2009, although two hinge on funding from outside the city.

“In order for them to be eligible for funding, they have to be identified on a plan,” Sequim Public Works interim director William Bullock said.

One of those two is an interchange at Simdars Road. The proposed interchange is regularly mentioned in connection with the Sequim rest stop being proposed by the state’s Department of Transportation. Some Sequim City Council members believe the rest stop will add to traffic congestion if the interchange is not included but the state Department of Transportation has told the council that the interchange project is unfunded and will not be funded in 2009. According to Bullock, the project was added to the city’s program list as a placeholder only, as a means of underlining the project’s importance.

“It’s at the top of our list because we want to make it very clear that this is one of our most important projects,” Bullock said.

Another 2009 project dependent on outside funding sources is improving Third Avenue sidewalks. The improvements are dependent on a $170,000 Safe Routes for Schools grant.

“It basically connects schools with both neighborhoods to the north of Washington and the south of Washington,” Bullock said. The grantees, however, will not be informed until later this month. If the city does not receive the grant, the project will be held for another year.

Other projects scheduled to begin in 2009 are a connector route between Grant Road and Western Way, pavement improvements to North Seventh Avenue and installing signals at the intersections of Washington Street and Rhodefer Road and at Sequim Avenue and Fir Street.

The Traffic Improvement Program sets aside money each year under the umbrella of “citywide projects,” with funding sub-categories of minor construction, pedestrian facilities, miscellaneous right of way, pavement rehabilitation and safety.

According to Bullock, these small funds are for projects that are too small to be added to the six-year traffic plan or that come up unexpectedly. “Right now we have our funding scattered to individual projects but it doesn’t necessarily allow for flexibility. This will hopefully consolidate some of those monies so that we can be flexible to needs as they crop up,” Bullock said.

If adopted in November, a two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase within the city could help to push improvement projects along faster. Currently the city funds the majority of its projects through development agreements or latecomers’ fees, but they’re sources of revenue that fluctuate.

Revenue from the proposed city sales tax would be filtered into a Transportation Benefits District fund, which would be spent solely on traffic improvements. According to the consulting firm Gray & Osborne, the city stands to gain $600,000 annually through the sales tax.

Bullock said that money could be used as matching funds when applying for traffic grants as well.

The council has until Aug. 12 to decide whether to put the proposed sales tax increase on the November ballot.

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