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Lobbyist seeks support from Council for Belfair Bypass project
A lobbyist for the proposed Highway 3 Belfair Bypass said, “The project is close to final design and going to construction.”
Jeanne Cushman, a lobbyist who has been working on the Belfair Bypass for several years, said the bypass project is the top transportation budget item on the Legislature’s transportation agenda.
“We’re getting pretty close to be being able to go to final design and going to construction,” Cushman said during the Feb. 12 meeting of the Port Orchard City Council.
But the project needs funding, which the State Legislature is considering, and Cushman asked the Council for its support for the project.
“I want to encourage you to participate in the process, because we know the Legislature is considering a transportation package that would have revenue for state, county and city projects,” Cushman said. “This project is competing very well to be considered in the package.”
She said the City of Bremerton, Port of Bremerton and Mason County council support the bypass project.
The bypass is a 5-mile project which goes around the east side of Belfair that would connect to Highway 3 near Highway 302 at the south and near Lake Flora Road at the north. The existing highway would become a business loop.
The project originally began as a Mason County project, but there wasn’t enough money in the budget for the bypass.
In 2005, State Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) got a $15 million appropriation into the state’s transportation budget for the project and the funds have been utilized for environmental studies, right-of-way surveying and preliminary design work.
Sheldon originally assumed the $15 million would be enough for the project, but funds were diverted to another project.
WSDOT estimated the cost for construction is about $78 million.
The Legislature could present a transportation funding package, that would include funding for the Belfair Bypass, to voters this year or in 2014.
She said the Bremerton Economic Development Study completed in 2012, shows the Belfair Bypass as the top transportation project in the area.
The bypass would help facilitate freight through the Belfair corridor and new industrial area as it develops, said Cushman.
“It’s also been considered as an important safety project to provide an alternate route for ambulances and fire trucks, and provide congestion relief,” Cushman said.
Cushman said when the traffic is congested on Highway 3 in Belfair, there are no alternate routes for motorists and emergency vehicles to use.
“You know how it can be,” she said. “You want truck traffic to be able to go up-and-down this corridor. You want safety and you want congestion relief.”
She presented the council with an update on the bypass environmental assessment by Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and comments will be accepted until March 31.
Funding for the assessment was provided by money in the 2010 supplement budget for WSDOT.
The assessment can be viewed at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/SR3.