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Canterwood Project Hits Some Roadblocks

July 30, 2008

By Paige Richmond, The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.

Jul. 30–Although nothing is certain right now, the City of Gig Harbor is expecting to receive all the permits and meet all the regulations to begin construction on Canterwood Boulevard within the next few weeks. Without them, the project can’t begin this summer.

City Administrator Rob Karlinsey said the project is “going to happen” in August, but the city is still waiting on permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and National Marine Fisheries. Without the permits, the project would be delayed an entire year, halting options for interim traffic improvements before St. Anthony Hospital’s planned opening in February.

In early May, city staff had decided the entire road would be closed for up to three months, beginning in early August, so interim improvements with rigid environmental standards could be made. The city needs permits to widen Canterwood, because there are wetlands on either side of the road and government agencies are requiring the installation of a fish-friendly culvert underneath the roadway.

The culvert must be installed during a fish window — July 15 to Sept. 15 — which dictates the timeline of the entire Canterwood project.

If the city can’t meet this year’s fish window, the scope of the project will change drastically.

Only days left to begin

David Stubchaer, the city’s public works director, estimates the last day the city can receive the permits is Friday. The contractor, who will receive about $3.8 million for the job, would need to begin prep work during the final week of August so actual construction and the closure of Canterwood could begin Aug. 4.

Both Stubchaer and Karlinsey are confident the city will receive the permits — it’s just a matter of when.

“I’m not thinking about it right now,” Karlinsey said about what would happen if the city can’t get the permits in time, “because I’m optimistic that we’re going to get them.”

Last-minute meeting

The city council held an emergency special session two weeks ago to approve an $840,000 purchase of land in Gig Harbor North from First Western, a private property owner. The land is needed to mitigate the wetlands surrounding Canterwood that will be destroyed when the street is widened by one lane in either direction.

The emergency session was called to ensure the transaction could be completed before the Aug. 1 deadline.

Hospital still to open

Delaying the project by one year would mean the interim improvements to Canterwood would be made after St. Anthony Hospital opens — not beforehand, as originally planned, which would create an easier path for emergency vehicles and hospital traffic.

The improvements, which include widening the road by one lane in each direction, would still be made in 2009, but they would be more difficult.

Canterwood would instead be closed for several months next summer, meaning emergency vehicles would be diverted and detoured from the most direct route to the hospital.

“We could still do interim improvements when the hospital is open, but it would be more obtrusive,” Karlinsey said, adding it’s possible a bypass would be built over Canterwood to avoid detour problems.

“We really want to get the project done before the hospital opens,” Stubchaer said.

Although the delay in interim improvements would be inconvenient, it wouldn’t have an effect on the hospital’s opening date. The hospital legally has two years to meet traffic concurrency, so the improvements could be made as late as 2011.

Stubchaer said that situation wouldn’t be ideal, since it would cause the interim improvements and future long-term changes to the Burnham-Borgen interchange to happen on the same timeline.

That would mean even more major road closures and delays on streets surrounding the hospital — the very problem this project was designed to prevent.

Long-term improvements

If the Canterwood Boulevard project and the interim traffic improvements for St. Anthony Hospital sound complicated now, it’s only the beginning.

These interim improvements are just a temporary solution until the city can build long-term improvements to the Burnham-Borgen-state Route 16 interchange in the next two years.

The city is currently working with a consultant to decide between a “single-point” or “split-diamond” interchange. At a Gig Harbor North Traffic Options Committee earlier this month, Mayor Chuck Hunter said the consultant should present the council with a final option by the Sept. 22 council meeting.

Reach Reporter and Columnist Paige Richmond at 253-853-9243 or by e-mail at paige.richmond@gateline.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.

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