Bay Street set to reopen Saturday

Despite recent rain delays, Washington State Department of Transportation officials hope to reopen the closed stretch of Bay Street near Ross Point Friday night as scheduled, which is very good news for at least one local business.

“That would be a blessing,” said Kim Kibler, general manager of the Fiesta Mexican Restaurant on Bay Street, located just past the detour signs that have been directing traffic up Port Orchard Boulevard and away from her eatery since mid July.

“Our business is down by 80 percent,” Kibler said, explaining that the business, which opened two years ago, is on the verge of filling for bankruptcy. “We’re pulling nickels and skimming personal bank accounts.”

Kibler said the latest closure of State Route 166 — reportedly the final phase in the 12-year process of securing the landslide-prone hillside — cut access to the restaurant severely during the “prime business months” of summer.

“Our business is dependent on that road being open,” Kibler said, explaining that although technically customers could still reach the restaurant and other businesses by going around the barricade, most people saw the detour and drove away.

“Most people said it was too much of a hassle for them,” she said. “They were confused, and afraid to go through the barricade. It looks like you shouldn’t go down there.”

Kibler said a handful of regulars still visited the restaurant, but the business was no longer “packed out” every day for its buffet and lunch special.

“It was heartwrenching. I put all my money and means into that restaurant,” she said, explaining that rumors that the closure would be pushed into October worried her even more, and said she was glad to hear that WSDOT officials reported that the roadway would open this weekend as scheduled.

“We still absolutely believe we’ll finish on time and open the road Sept. 3 as planned,” said WSDOT spokesman Lloyd Brown. “We lost a couple of days to rain, but the contractor has been working 12- to 18-hour days on the site to make up the time.”

Brown said even if the work is ultimately pushed back a day or two — especially given the chance of more rain coming this week — the road will open, with perhaps flaggers to direct traffic around the construction.

“We will open the road no matter what,” he said, explaining that as of now the road is scheduled to re-open by midnight, Sept. 4. “For most people, that will mean Saturday morning.”

For this final phase, Project Engineer John McNutt said crews first removed unstable material from the slopes, then buttressed the last three sections of hillside in the same manner as the most notorious areas which were secured between 1992 and 2000.

Officials said all slide areas which have buttressing — even the ones stabilized 10 years ago — have stayed put since then, and Brown said the recent work looks just as stable.

“It held really nice in the rain, which was really good news,” Brown said, explaining that if the wet weather did have a positive side, it was that crews could gauge how the hillside would fare. “We want the material to stay on the cliff, and the hillside held up beautifully.”

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