Washington Avenue project will wait for better times

3:06 pm July 6th, 2012

The town of Eatonville is putting proposed improvements of Washington Avenue on the back burner because it can’t afford the complete project.

Preliminary estimates of the cost of traffic controls and other upgrades have ranged as high as $2.2 million. The town would apply for state grants to cover most of that, but would also have to come up with about $300,000 of its own money to cover the rest under a matching-funds formula.

Officials said the town, with a budget that’s already near the breaking point and little relief certain any time soon, can’t afford its share of the project’s price tag.

“We have to pull back,” said Mayor Ray Harper.

The project is partially designed and will be completed with $246,891 in state funds allocated through the Puget Sound Regional Council. Another $35,000 in matching funds, which the town normally would have to provide, is coming from the state Transportation Improvement Board.

Town officials aren’t giving up on getting the project finished. Once the design is done, they’ll wait for the right time to apply for grants.

Doug Beagle, the town administrator, said the project could be done in chunks. The highest priority, he said, is the intersection of Carter Street. An illuminated crosswalk warning light is proposed for the busy intersection, which is where students cross when walking to and from Eatonville Middle School and Eatonville Elementary School.

Grants for street projects that improve pedestrian safety for schoolchildren could become available, Beagle said.

Other proposed improvements of Washington, which is the in-town portion of State Route 161, include a new traffic signal at Center Street intersection and new sidewalks, upgraded crosswalks and landscaping from Center to Lynch Creek Road.

The finished project would be similar in appearance to Mashell Avenue, which was rebuilt last year at a cost of about $1.2 million. Most of the funding for that work came from the state.

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