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City to issue Winslow Way SEPA determination, downtown construction takes shape

Life on Winslow Way during the construction is being outlined.  - Brad Camp/File Photo
Life on Winslow Way during the construction is being outlined.
— image credit: Brad Camp/File Photo

City to issue MDNS for Winslow Way construction on heels of value engineering study that offers a glimpse into the construction.

The city is expected to issue a mitigated determination of nonsignificance (MDNS) for the Winslow Way reconstruction project tomorrow.

The city’s determination allows the project to bypass a full review under the State Environmental Policy Act and opens the project to public comment through May 29.

The notice brings the construction project closer to its December 2009 contract date, with construction slated to begin in March and last through November 2010.

Last month, Seattle’s JCJ LLC presented the city with a value engineering report that indicates how much of the construction will proceed.

The 90-page report includes about 45 recommendations to the city that create cost savings and improve the longevity of the project. It also touches on some of the project’s unknowns, such as traffic and parking mitigation efforts.

The team facilitator on the report, Peter Jobs, said seven contractors, each with 30 to 40 years experience on similar projects, worked on the suggestions after scouring related documents and speaking to residents and businesses along Winslow Way.

Though the city may not accept all of the recommendations in the JGJ report, a large majority of the recommendations will likely be folded into the project.

“We are going to evaluate all these suggestions,” said the city’s project manager Chris Wierzbicki. “We’ll probably work a significant amount into the design.”

Overall, a total of $772,000 could be saved with JGJ’s proposed cost-saving measures, but JGJ also recommended increased spending of $676,000 on other aspects of the project.

One of the most significant cost increases includes using concrete instead of asphalt for the road. It would add significant up-front cost but would have a longer life span, saving an estimated $370,000 in repair costs over 40 years.

Some of the bolder suggestions include night-time construction periods and closing Winslow Way entirely during some winter months. The street’s closure would allow a majority of the work to be completed in roughly two months and would reduce construction activities during the busy summer season.

Wierzbicki said that option would be off the table unless there were some way to reduce the effect of Winslow Way’s closure on local businesses’ bottom lines.

“They understand it’s a pretty sensitive issue for businesses there,” he said. “Unless there’s a way to compensate for the loss of revenue to those businesses, then we wouldn’t approach something like that.”

Options to help reduce the negative impact of the construction have been a hot topic at the city and among business owners. A special task force, headed up by the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association, has gathered the Chamber of Commerce and business owners to concentrate on promotional and communication activities during the construction. The city is also hosting monthly meetings at 8 a.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month to discuss developments in the project and how it will affect business.

Businesses and commuters will also be affected by traffic flow, which is one of the major points analyzed in the value engineering study. Throughout the nine-month project period, one lane of local-access traffic would be available on Winslow Way – always heading west. Traffic detours to the south end would head east along Bjune Drive or Wyatt Way.

“It was good to have folks look at what traffic routing might look like,” Wierzbicki said. “We’ve made important discoveries on how ferry traffic can enter into town and access the shops, and that is probably the direction we’ll take.”

The report also suggests the city spend an additional $159,000 to bolster parking and transit alternatives. Those could include opening the City Hall parking lot to the public.

Another concept that is being seriously considered is the introduction of a shuttle, which would make runs between Winslow and a satellite parking area.

A matrix of ideas for handling the parking and access problems will be discussed by the city’s Land Use Committee in June.

A separate recommendation to reduce the amount of Sharrow Lane signage – the signs and road markings that indicate a shared bike and car route – will be taken up by the Non-Motorized Transportation Committee next month.

JGJ also believes the city is over-estimating the risks of the project by $257,000.

“They looked at our cost estimates and they said some of our contingencies are still on the high side,” Wierzbicki said.

Some of those contingency funds are reserved for legal counsel, which will likely be needed if the city’s MDNS is challenged.

The JGJ value engineering report will be made available on the city’s website next Tuesday. The comment period on the city’s MDNS for the project will open Friday.

The city’s Winslow Way project page will be updated on a bi-weekly basis. The value engineering report will be available next week. Visit www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us and click on “Projects”. Winslow business owners hold meetings at 8 a.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at City Hall.

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