Basich Blvd, Boone Street projects proceeding on schedule

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Major road projects are under way in Aberdeen, and so far Basich Boulevard repairs and the pedestrian and bike improvement project near Grays Harbor College are on schedule, city Public Works Director Rick Sangder told the Aberdeen City Council this week.

Meanwhile, pressure from the city and residents have led to some tweaks to traffic lights in east Aberdeen that may help improve the flow of heavy summer traffic heading for the beaches.

Rognlin’s Inc. was awarded the contract for Basich Boulevard, an emergency hospital route and tsunami staging area in the Herbig Heights neighborhood. Crews have been on the scene since — described as “a big hole up there” by Sangder — and the $575,000 project is in line for completion by the end of the year.

Mayor Pete Schave updated the funding efforts of the city to fix the roadway, which has been closed since late December after settlement under the roadway, fed by heavy winter rains, washed out a large section at the end of 2020.

“The city actually started seeking disaster funds in February and March,” he said. “We engaged FEMA, Washington State and Grays Harbor Emergency Management, and state and federal representatives to finance repairs.”

While heavy storms at the end of 2019 and early in 2020 exacerbated the failure of the roadway, Schave explained as far as potential disaster funding sources were concerned, “the land movement, although triggered by winter storms, the actual roadway failure technically fell outside the dates of any federally-declared disaster, which made it ineligible for any federal disaster funding.”

With initial repair estimates at $500,000-$750,000-plus, and additional engineering costs, “which would have been a significant impact to the city budget,” said Schave, the city reached out to the state Public Works Board and was able to get a $1 million loan to cover both design and construction. The loan agreement was signed in May, which allowed the bids to open in July. The loan is a 20-year loan, at 0.79%, with 20% of it forgivable when the project is completed.

“It’s tentatively scheduled to be completed Oct. 6, which is subject to change,” said Schave. City Engineer Kris Koski said “things like weather and unanticipated conditions can impact schedule, but currently we are on track for Oct. 6 completion.” Meanwhile, the search for other funding to offset the loan continues.

The Grays Harbor College neighborhood connection project, which adds bike lanes and sidewalks for improved access to the college on the east side of Boone Street, got underway in July. Drivers between the Shoppes at Riverside and the entrance to the college will notice the construction and there could be some delays during construction between West Harriman and Edward P. Smith Drive.

Before this, college students and instructors who live close enough to walk to campus have had to walk along the shoulder of the sometimes busy highway.

Rognlin’s is handling this project as well, with the low bid of just over $700,000. About half of that will be covered by federal funding, the other from the city’s Transportation Benefit District fund.

The project is scheduled for completion at the end of summer. “We did run into some construction issues, and one of the things delayed was the rapid flashing beacons” that alert drivers to the crosswalks, said Public Works Committee Chairman Nathan Kennedy.

East Aberdeen traffic

“The state Department of Transportation has made some adjustments to the traffic light at the intersection of Tyler Street and South Chehalis Street to improve traffic flow,” said Kennedy. “This is the direct result from citizen input and a letter from (Koski).”

Traffic westbound through east Aberdeen is always heavy in the summer, particularly on weekends, as visitors head for the beaches. The city has spent months communicating with the Department of Transportation about the traffic lights, which weren’t adjusted after a left turn lane was placed on East Wishkah at South Chehalis, adding to the congestion. Adding to the volume is the signal in place on the South Monte Bridge over the Chehalis on State Route 107 during its ongoing rehabilitation, and the closure of Blue Slough Road, a popular alternative for beach-going tourists, directing even more traffic through downtown Aberdeen.

With the light adjustments, “Hopefully, we’ll see the traffic there lighten up a bit,” said Kennedy.

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