Flowers lean against the rail of the eastern Eighth Street bridge Thursday. With an anticipated $350,000 in funding coming from the state, Port Angeles say they can complete the fencing project on both bridges this summer. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Flowers lean against the rail of the eastern Eighth Street bridge Thursday. With an anticipated $350,000 in funding coming from the state, Port Angeles say they can complete the fencing project on both bridges this summer. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

State funds for suicide barriers on Eighth Street bridges secured

PORT ANGELES — Rep. Mike Chapman hopes the suicide barrier project on the Eighth Street Bridges can move “full steam ahead” now that $350,000 has been secured in the state’s transportation budget.

The Senate passed the agreed-to deal Thursday — a day after the House — securing the funds for the city. All that awaits is Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature, the Port Angeles Democrat said.

“This has been an emotional issue that the community has wanted to see some relief on,” Chapman said. “It seemed appropriate at the state level to ask for a modest amount to finish out the budget for the city and I would hope they could move full steam ahead.”

It’s news City Councilwoman Cherie Kidd said she has been waiting to hear ever since the renovated Eighth Street bridges — which have only 4-foot, 6-inch rails — opened in 2009.

Seven people have jumped from the 100-foot tall bridges over the Tumwater and Valley creeks since they were reopened.

“This has been a 10-year effort for me,” Kidd said. “I started in 2008 and I was told ‘no, we can’t do it, it’ll cost $1 million.’ ”

With the funding secured and the project already ahead of schedule, Kidd said taller fencing along the two bridges could be installed by the end of summer.

Craig Fulton told the City Council on Tuesday that the design and construction bid package has been completed and the city has released its request for proposals to contractors.

Those bids are due by 2 p.m. March 27.

“At that time, we’ll know what it’s looking at as far as cost and whether we can add any of the alternative bid items,” he said.

The state funding is critical to the city’s efforts, Kidd said, especially after the news last month that McKinley Paper Co., has put its plans on hold for opening the plant it purchased from Nippon Paper Industries. When operating, the plant on Ediz Hook pumped about $500,000 in electric utility taxes into the city’s general fund annually.

“With the mill on hiatus, our resources are under pressures in the city,” Kidd said earlier this week. “This is vital. We need the help.”

City officials said in January the city would need $350,000 — exactly what is included in the state transportation budget — to complete the project.

The city has pledged $442,000 in real estate excise taxes, $434,000 in general funds and $50,000 deferred from capital projects for the fencing.

An additional $124,000 in donations, including a $100,000 pledge from an anonymous family, has boosted the total dedicated to the project to $1,050,000 — and left $350,000 more to be raised.

Kidd said she is thankful Chapman, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, and Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, were successful is securing the money for the city.

“They really went to bat for us this year,” Kidd said. “Mike really took the ball and ran with it.”

Chapman said when he asked members of the House Transportation Committee, which he serves on, to fund the barriers, he reminded them that one of the bridges is over a state highway.

He also told members how important it is to the city to add the fencing to the bridges.

“This is a small investment to protect future loss of life,” Chapman said, adding that he credits state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, for understanding how important the project is to Port Angeles residents.

Chapman’s proposal was out of the norm and could easily have been overlooked. The project “came out of the blue” and wasn’t on any lists.

“Without [Clibborn] championing it, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “She understands these local issues so well that when someone like myself comes to her and tells here ‘this is very important to my hometown,’ she took it to heart.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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