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Slide-proofing slips past I-695 ax

"State transportation officials say State Route 166 at Ross Point is another step closer to slide-proof status despite post-Initiative 695 budgeting woes.At a recent Port Orchard City Council meeting, Gary Demich, the Department of Transportation administrator for the Olympic region, said he's confident the Legislature will approve matching funds necessary to complete slide-control and safety projects on the highway.In 1998, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-6th District) helped secure about $7.4 million in federal funds so the DOT could fix at least three dangerous, slide-prone zones along SR-166.Those funds came with strings attached, however. While the federal government planned to give DOT about $1.2 million annually over the next six years, the state was expected to match those annual payments by 20 percent. So far, legislators have allocated that much for each budget session, and Demich doesn't think the current session--scheduled to end this week--will be any different.The first fix, which cost about $1.09 million, on SR-166 was completed at Ross Point last November. According to DOT, that hillside is stable, even though rainstorms have scourged Kitsap County this winter.Now for the next step. DOT mudslide control engineer Amity Trowbridge told council members that will come in the form of a rock buttress and drain project similar to, but smaller than, slide-repair efforts completed by Seattle-based Scoccolo Construction at Ross Point last year.DOT says this time, the $750,000 task is expected to fix the unstable hillside on SR-166 facing Sinclair Inlet between Ross Point Creek and downtown Port Orchard. That particular section, at which a rock buttress will be formed, is about 260 feet long where hill meets roadway, Trowbridge said. Current designs also call for installing 11 horizontal drains to rid the soil of excess water.Trowbridge said construction time is estimated at 25 days, with crews working at least six days a week. Only trouble is, Trowbridge isn't sure when construction can actually start. The state Department of Wildlife must first give DOT the OK on construction because bald eagles may nest in that area. Trowbridge said if eagles don't nest, construction can start as early as this summer. If they do, construction could begin as late as mid-August. Another uncertainty is whether the highway will be closed for construction. Trowbridge said she hopes the highway can remain open, but if crews can't complete the project in a safe, timely fashion with the road open, it will probably be closed to traffic. About 20,000 cars daily travel the waterfront highway between Port Orchard and Bremerton. In any event, DOT officials hope the project will go out to bid in May or June.Other plans for improving hillsides along SR-166 call for flattening slopes, landscaping and constructing small walls that could catch any sloughing.One improvement area is located immediately east of Ross Creek. The other three are located between Ross Creek and Port Orchard Boulevard. Trowbridge said those improvements are slated for completion as soon as private property owners allow state operators needed right-of-ways."

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