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Bill extending State Route 166 ready for gov to sign

The state would be responsible for maintaining this section of Mile Hill Drive if Gov. Chris Gregoire signs SB 6510. - Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo
The state would be responsible for maintaining this section of Mile Hill Drive if Gov. Chris Gregoire signs SB 6510.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

If you drive east up Mile Hill Drive past Jackson Avenue and Sound Sound Cinemas, you’ll cross 600 feet of no man’s land, where the new pavement ends and potholes used to rule.

“It was very dangerous,” said Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola. “We almost had a motorcyclist killed there.”

The road deteriorated and the potholes began to sprout after the City of Port Orchard’s boundaries extended up Mile Hill Drive — officially State-Route 166 — about a decade ago.

“The state’s position was when we annexed that area, it was the city’s responsibility to maintain (that section of the road),” Coppola said, explaining that state law dictates if a state highway extends into a city’s boundaries, and that city has less than 22,500 residents, the state is still responsible for maintaining the roadway.

However, Coppola said a conflicting state law gave the state “a loophole, and they were trying to wriggle through that loophole.”

But a new bill that arrived on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s desk this week will end the confusion and declare that 600 feet of Mile Hill Drive/SR-166 as the state’s responsibility.

“I went to Senator Kilmer and said, ‘help!’” said Coppola, recalling how Senate Bill 6510 came to life. “And he basically wrestled the (Washington State Department of Transportation) down on this all by himself.”

“I’m happy we were able to do this for Port Orchard — allowing the state to maintain its commitment to the community as it grows,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer, (D-Gig Harbor). “I think this sends an important message that the state will uphold its responsibilities. This should lead to needed improvements and the kind of maintenance that otherwise could not be afforded.”

Coppola said the state refused to fix the potholes, and after the near-fatal accident involving the motorcyclist, he told the city’s Public Works Department to repair them.

“When you figure in the labor and materials, it probably cost us $10,000,” he said.

If SB 6510 is signed, future repairs will be the responsibility of the WSDOT.

Coppola said he was glad the bill passed both the state House and Senate, and he was hoping to find out when the governor would be signing the bill so “I can be there when she does.”

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