Port Orchard's roundabout price tag keeps climbing

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pottery Avenue roundabout. - Courtesy Photo
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pottery Avenue roundabout.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Plans for the redesign of the Tremont Street corridor will be more expensive than anticipated, causing at least one city council member to react with a certain degree of sticker shock.

“No matter what we do, this will cost us a lot more than what we expected to pay,” said Port Orchard City Councilman John Clausen. “But I think we need to continue with the project and do what we will need to do in either case, because the longer we delay the more expensive it will become.”

The project cost, once projected at around $6 million, is now estimated at around $15 million — no matter which of three options are selected.

The redesign of the corridor has been under discussion for several years, with the goal of easing the traffic burden between State Route 16 and downtown Port Orchard.

At issue are two intersections along Tremont, at South Kitsap Boulevard and Pottery Lane.

Both locations now have traffic signals, which also need to be updated.

The three scenarios are to place roundabouts at both locations, traffic lights at both locations, or a roundabout at Pottery Lane and a signal at South Kitsap Boulevard.

Port Orchard Public Works Director Mark Dorsey presented these scenarios to the council at a Tuesday evening work session, during which the matter was discussed for more than 90 minutes.

One of the biggest points of contention is the proximity of the Pottery Lane rotary to a local doctor’s office. Dorsey suggested moving the structure several feet to the north to accommodate this building as well as the existing utility infrastructure.

Clausen and his council colleague Rob Putaansu said they favored the dual roundabout solution, with Putaansu’s caveat “as long as the roundabouts are properly designed.”

Both feel the two roundabouts, positioned three-tenths of a mile apart, will ease traffic flow and provide an attractive gateway to the community.

“One of the reasons for Bremerton’s revitalization is their construction of an attractive gateway,” Putaansu said.

Clauson added that the dual roundabout will allow the city to maintain the existing median strips, which will make a tremendous aesthetic difference as people travel into town.

While roundabout costs end at construction, erecting a traffic signal also qualifies as a gift from the city that keeps on taking.

Clausen pointed out that the maintenance of a traffic signal can run to more than $200,000 per year.

Dorsey, who began his job on May 27, was assigned this project as soon as he walked in the door and has spent at least 30 percent of his time on its completion.

He received plaudits for his work job from both council members and Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola.

“Both Mark and (Development Director) James (Weaver) have done one heck of a job putting together this presentation,” Coppola said. “For the first time we have a clear picture of where we are, and we know what we are dealing with.”

Coppola said all the solutions are “revenue neutral,” since their similar costs don’t force the council to make the decision on a financial basis.

Coppola, whose business property is adjacent to the proposed Pottery Lane roundabout, acknowledges he is “the single property owner who is most impacted by this decision.”

He said he is turning over his interests to his attorney, who will argue his case if needed.

“There isn’t anything I can do about this,” he said. “Eminent domain is eminent domain. I don’t have a choice here.”

Coppola pointed out that he, as mayor, does not vote on any action taken by the council.

Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend suggested that the roundabouts be enlarged to accommodate large trucks and emergency vehicles, which Dorsey took into consideration.

Townsend also noted that building a roundabout will require a certain amount of public education in order to teach drivers how to merge into the circle.

The roundabout was last discussed at the May 27 council meeting, at which time Dorsey was given the assignment to prepare the report.

The plan at the time was to receive the report on May 17 and vote a preference on May 24.

While the item will remain on the agenda, the council will most likely delay a vote in order to study the full report, according to Putaansu.

Nevertheless, the council is expected to choose an option in the near future and commit to one of the options.

After the meeting, Councilman Fred Chang said he would like to see projections about what might happen if the city did not address the problem and didn’t do anything — an idea that Coppola quickly rejected.

“We can’t not do anything,” Coppola said. “The traffic on Tremont gets worse every day. The sooner we get started the better.”

Still, if the project’s direction is decided at deliberate speed and the funding secured the earliest completion date is 2010 or 2011, according to Dorsey.

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