Traffic makes its way across the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River west of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Traffic makes its way across the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River west of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Most major Peninsula projects safe after I-976 passage

Simdars Road, transit funds in doubt

Improvements to the Elwha River bridge and Morse Creek curve in Clallam County and Shine Road in Jefferson County will not be affected under preliminary plans to fill funding gaps created by the passage of Initiative 976, according to an analysis by the state legislative Joint Transportation Committee.

But Simdars Road improvements in Sequim could be blocked, according to State Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles, whose 24th District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County.

And Clallam Transit and Jefferson Transit, Clallam and Jefferson counties’ two public transportation agencies, are waiting to see what state lawmakers do during a legislative session that begins Jan. 13 before responding to the ballot measure’s impact, they said last week.

The measure passed with 53 percent approval statewide, according to the Washington Secretary of State website on Friday. Clallam County had passed it, barely, by 50.88 percent as of Friday — but not all of Tuesday’s general election ballots had been counted.

In Jefferson County, the vote was overwhelmingly against it; 59.86 percent opposed the Tim Eyman measure.

I-976 mandates $30 car tabs. It eliminates the 0.3 percent sales tax on vehicle purchases and cuts more than $1.9 billion in revenue to the state and $2.3 billion to local governments over the next six years, mostly through reductions to Sound Transit.

The agency operates regional transit service throughout urban areas of Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.

In a memo Friday to state legislators, state Rep. Jake Fey, a Port Angeles native representing the 27th District and serving as the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) chair, released “talking points” and an analysis prepared by the Democratic Party caucus staff.

“While it will take more time to get a full handle on the impacts of the initiative, it is clear that many aspects of our state transportation system will feel the impact of the loss of very important revenue sources,” Fey said in his email.

Jefferson Transit is waiting to see what state lawmakers do during their legislative session before responding to the passage of Initiative 976. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson Transit is waiting to see what state lawmakers do during their legislative session before responding to the passage of Initiative 976. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

It listed Multimodal Account funds that are planned for cuts.

“The Multimodal Account sees 65.8 percent and 84.8 percent reductions in 2019-21 and 2021-23 respectively,” according to the memo.

Chapman said the $32 million to replace the Elwha River bridge west of Port Angeles will not be cut because the state Bridge Preservation Fund is not being targeted — at least for now.

The 93-year-old bridge, which sits on gravel, is monitored for movement.

“It flexes from the movement of water,” Chapman said.

“They will close the bridge if it moves too much.”

He said he was assured Friday by John Wynands, state Department of Transportation (DOT) region administrator, that design and permitting for the bridge will continue but that the bidding process may be delayed.

“They will wait to make sure there’s not a lack of funding,” Chapman said.

“They are not automatically stopping work on it.

“As long as the Legislature does not take money out of the Bridge Preservation Fund, they should be ready to go out for bid late next year or early 2021.”

DOT safety improvements planned for Clallam and Jefferson counties also appear safe for now, Chapman said.

That would preserve $3.6 million for the U.S. Highway 101 Morse Creek curve safety barrier east of Port Angeles.

It also would preserve $4.6 million for a roundabout in Jefferson County where state Highway 101 intersects with Paradise Bay and Shine Roads and a $4.2 million roundabout at sate Highways 104 and 19, Chapman said Friday.

“They are safety projects, so they are moving forward, ” Chapman said.

“They may be delayed a little bit, but they should be fine.”

Traffic makes its way across the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River west of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Traffic makes its way across the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River west of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The state Legislature earlier this year approved $1.29 million for design and environmental work between Sequim and Blyn on Simdars, Happy Valley and Palo Alto roads, and for landscaping needs.

Fey said during a visit of the JTC to the North Olympic Peninsula in October that funding for Simdars Road improvements will likely be included the 2021 budget.

That’s not such a sure thing anymore, Chapman said Friday.

“I don’t feel as confident getting construction dollars,” he said.

“If it gets rated as a safety project, that’s going to make it easier.

“If it’s just an improvement project, we don’t know where the budget will be with those kinds of projects.”

Gov. Jay Inslee directed DOT after the passage of I-976 “to postpone projects not yet underway.”

Multimodal Funds, which include 22 programs listed on the memo, are tapped by Clallam Transit.

Dunyele Mason, Clallam Transit finance manager, said Friday they include the Regional Mobility Grant Program Account, the Rural Mobility Grant Program Account and the Freight Mobility Multimodal Account.

Mason said a transit board subcommittee will discuss further strategies in light of I-976 in a meeting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The Clallam Transit board will meet Nov. 20.

“We’re still assessing the situation and our options,” she said.

“Over the long term, if a replacement source of revenue is not found, yes, there would be cuts in service,” she said.

Sources of funding include sales taxes and fares, Mason said.

Jefferson Transit officials know it will see a decrease in state funding, but at this point it is unclear how much that will be, Finance Manager Sara Crouch said.

“My budget assumed we would lose state funding and we thought that was the best case scenario,” Crouch said. “But we don’t know, I can’t give any particulars until WSDOT lets us know.

“I think everybody is kind of still reeling. Everybody was hopeful, but it just didn’t work out.

“I am very grateful that the voters of Jefferson County did support Transit.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski contributed to this report.

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