Better late than never, right?
Last week, the Black Diamond City Council passed its 2017 – 2022 Transportation Improvement Plan, which was more than three-quarters of a year late to the state.
The council passed it just in time to begin drafting the 2018 – 2023 TIP, which typically begins in May to be approved and sent to the state by July 1, as required by law.
Despite nearly two hours of heated debate over two TIP plans — one worked on and recommended by city staff and an amended plan supported by council members Pat Pepper, Erika Morgan and Brian Weber — the council approved the staff recommended TIP, but with one major difference to the Roberts Drive Rehabilitation and Rock Creek Bridge repair project.
Pepper, Morgan and Weber voted for the amended 2017 TIP while council members Tamie Deady and Janie Edelman supported the staff-recommended version.
The original staff-recommended TIP had the Roberts Drive and Rock Creek Bridge projects lumped together as one large project, planned to be completed in 2017.
Roberts Drive would have received improvements such as widening the road, sidewalks, pedestrian lighting and road leveling from 100 feet west of the bridge to City Hall.
The Rock Creek Bridge would have also got some repairs, plus a pedestrian walkway on one side of the bridge.
In the approved 2017 TIP, Roberts Drive will only receive improvements between Bruckners Way to City Hall. This means the rest of the road included in the original project, about 400 feet west of Bruckners Way and over the Rock Creek Bridge, will not receive improvements in 2017.
This includes the pedestrian walkway alongside the bridge.
Instead, the council verbally agreed to put a Rock Creek Bridge replacement project in the 2018 TIP.
By state standards, a bridge replacement would include a pedestrian walkway along the bridge, city staff said.
REPAIR VS. REPLACE: COST COMPARISON
Much of the money being used for these projects consists of grant funds from the state’s Transportation Improvement Board.
The city secured two grants totaling around $1.26 million for design and construction.
According to Public Works Program Manager Scott Hannis, the entire street improvement and bridge repair project was estimated to cost around $1.3 million, with design costs at around $218 thousand and construction costs more than $1.1 million.
The design costs have been paid, Hannis said, and the city has been reimbursed by the state’s Transportation Improvement Board to the tune of $191 thousand.
However, part of the grant funds may have to go back to the TIB, now that the city isn’t looking at repairing the bridge.
No longer repairing the bridge and several hundred feet of Roberts Drive drops the price of the project by between $200 and $250 thousand, Hannis continued, but replacing the bridge could cost between $500 and $600 thousand and total costs could end up exceeding $1 million.
Hannis said grants are available for bridge construction.
Council members in favor of replacing the bridge pointed to the Black Diamond Municipal Code and several letters the city received about the bridge repair project as why the city should replace the bridge instead of repairing it.
The city received an October 2016 letter from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, stating the Rock Creek Bridge is “impeding” fish passage.
“In addition to being a fish passage impediment, this bridge appears to be substandard and likely has reached the end of its useful life,” the letter read.
The tribe recommended replacing the 19-foot bridge with a 30-foot bridge, which would provide full fish passage.
On top of that, the BDMC requires the city to replace culverts that are impediments to fish passage at times of major reconstruction, Pepper said at the meeting.
Additionally, the council members pointed to the fact that the bridge is 102 years old, and a Paramatrix study of the bridge claimed repairs would only add 20 years to the lifespan of the bridge.
Hannis said he disagrees with the tribe’s analysis of the bridge, stating that replacing the culvert or increasing the bridge length won’t benefit fish passage.
Hannis also disagreed with the council members’ take from the Paramatrix study, saying that the repairs could keep the bridge going for 20 years or more, if the bridge receives multiple repairs over the years and is checked on regularly for signs of deterioration.
As per a verbal agreement between Mayor Carol Benson and council members Pepper, Morgan and Weber, the city has put out an Request for Proposals for a new city attorney.
Benson agreed to put out the RFP on March 2 to get the three council members to approve her city budget for the remainder of the year.
Since June 2016, the city has been paying David Linehan of the Kenyon Disend firm to be the city’s legal counsel.
Since then, the council has argued the city has no legal representation, because Linehan’s contract was never approved by the council.
Benson announced at the April 6 council meeting that the city has so far only received one response to the RFP after it was made three weeks ago.
Kenyon Disend was the only responder.
The council decided to keep the RFP open to try and attract other responders.