City approves ovoid centers in bid for funds

A squashed-circle vision of Port Orchard’s future economic centers won unanimous approval from the City Council earlier this month, despite past debates over the likely success of the proposal.

The old plan, which drew fire from many on the council, drew precise circles around three identified future centers of growth — downtown Bay Street and the Kitsap County Courthouse Campus, South Kitsap Industrial Park and South Kitsap Mall.

The new plan, which the council said was more representative of the city’s layout, describes long ovals taking in the previously named centers, plus significantly more of the surrounding area.

The industrial park center now takes in everything along Tremont Street up to Port Orchard Boulevard. The Bay Street oval takes in the entire downtown corridor, stretching beyond Bethel Road. The South Kitsap Mall center arguably grew the most, encompassing the former Kmart plaza further up Mile Hill Drive and even South Kitsap High School to the north.

The reasons behind the boundary realignment are purely economic. Because the purpose of outlining centers is to make the areas eligible to receive extra federal transportation funding, the council wanted to make sure they took in as much crucial territory as possible.

The lengthening of the industrial park center, for example, could net the city the nearly $2 million it needs to widen Tremont between the boulevard and State Route 16 — a long-planned project that has always been beyond the city’s financial grasp.

“I understand how picky the federal government can be sometimes,” said City Councilman John Clauson, speaking in favor of including Tremont.

The city has been concerned that the odd-sized centers would not pass muster with the Puget Sound Regional Council — the agency that distributes the transportation monies. However, the council members decided it was worth a little risk to make sure the centers included the areas the city wanted to improve.

The new plan, which was approved April 26, now goes before the PSRC for consideration. The agency is expected to make a decision by the end of the month — enough time for the city to make it into this year’s round of transportation fund competition and try its luck at getting money for the Tremont project.

This year, there is reportedly $3.91 million for roads and $630,000 for non-motorized projects such as bike lanes up for grabs.

If the applications don’t go through this year, the city will have to wait until 2006 to try again.

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