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Tremont upgrade possible

Port Orchard’s eye is on Tremont Street for the next six years, but it’s doubtful whether much progress on that project — or any of the others in the city’s recently adopted six-year transportation plan — will be made.

“The fact that it’s listed there doesn’t mean it’s going to be funded,” said city engineer Larry Curles. “It just means it’s been identified.”

To back up that statement, Curles — who handles the city’s public works department and much of its related grant-writing — pointed out this year’s plan has “about a 98 percent” overlap with the last transportation plan. Most projects, he said, travel from plan to plan, waiting for a piece of what’s become smaller and smaller funding pots.

The plans, nevertheless, are required by the Department of Transportation in order to keep track of where federal highway funds go. Currently, the city puts about $50,000 a year aside in an arterial street fund, which is used to match potential state and federal grants.

The money isn’t enough to snag large grants, Curles said, but it does allow the city to make small changes or incremental improvements on long-term projects.

“These small projects chip away at (the fund), but these small projects give us good improvements,” he said.

For example, the city wants to make a priority of Tremont, both in terms of its width and its intersections. The road is heavily traveled — during a survey done on a weekday last October, 27,600 vehicles were recorded traveling over the Blackjack Creek bridge in a 24-hour period.

Ideally, the city wants to extend Tremont’s four-lane width from its current stop-point at Port Orchard Boulevard all the way to State Route 16. But because that project would likely cost millions the city doesn’t currently have, city officials are looking at small ways to make the Tremont corridor more manageable. Curles said the city is now in the planning process for signal revisions at the intersection of Tremont and Sidney Avenue.

Although narrow, Sidney is heavily used — between 4,000 and 5,000 vehicles use Sidney on a daily basis and many of those use the Tremont intersection as well. Curles said the city wants to put left-turn signals on Sidney to prevent back-ups. The city has already snagged approximately $25,000 in grants and matching funds, which Curles said should be “more than enough” to complete the project.

Meanwhile, he added, Port Orchard will continue to apply for grants to tackle the Tremont widening, major road re-pavings and other high-cost projects on the city’s list.

Curles said the city’s attitude emphasizes getting the project done — not getting it done immediately, if rushing would create financial hardship.

“The Tremont Street you see today, it took 20 years to build that road,” Curles said.

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