Road money needs to be spent


Staff reporter

The city of Oak Harbor has about $500,000 in federal grant money for transportation improvements that has been waiting years to be spent. State and county officials monitoring the money are getting antsy about the lack of activity.

In order to expedite the projects and help out overburdened city staff, the City Council recently agreed to hire consulting engineers to develop the five projects, which will cost the city $83,044 in matching funds.

One of these projects is the long-planned extension of SW Barrington Drive from Erie Street up the hill to Fairhaven Drive. It would cut through a dead end and add a convenient west-to-east link in the city, but not everyone may be pleased with it. Several residents opposed the extension, arguing that it would make the Fairhaven Drive neighborhood less safe for children, when it was discussed years ago. The city received a $100,000 grant to do the project in 1998.

The city also received two separate grants in 2001 and 2002, totalling $242,000, for sidewalk construction on Oak Harbor Road north of Whidbey Avenue.

In addition, the city has two other grants, $138,000 and $51,900, for improvements at the intersection of Oak Harbor Road and NE Seventh Avenue and at the intersection of Regatta Drive and Crescent Harbor Road. The city received the grants in 1998 and 1996, respectively.

City Engineer Larry Benfield told the council that city engineering staff simply hasn’t had the time to complete the grant projects. In recent years, the city’s effort to take over the Navy’s water and sewer system has greatly added to their work.

Benfield said the city has put out a request for qualification from engineering firms, with an Aug. 5 deadline. After a consulting engineer is chosen, the contract for services will be brought back to the City Council for final approval.

According to Benfield, construction on the project could begin as early as next spring.

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