Final bypass document is delayed again

December 22, 2008

By Jon Savelle

The long-disputed Southeast Bypass may be dead, but it is not yet buried.

A final document, called a record of decision, issued by the Federal Highway Administration, will officially acknowledge the City Council’s selection of the no-build option for the proposed road. The record of decision has been provided to the city in draft form, to which the council may submit additions or changes for possible inclusion by the Highway Administration. Such a step appeared likely Dec. 15, when the council’s regular meeting agenda listed Agenda Bill 5893 as an action item.

However, as occurred often during the 12-year history of the bypass, the milestone was delayed.

Clearly, the council was not ready to tackle the additions or changes, primarily because neither the members nor the public had had a chance to review the suggestions.

More than a few are expected. A majority of the council has expressed dissatisfaction with the draft record of decision, which they say was written with a strong bias against the council’s no-build decision.

Citizens submitted many other comments on the draft, some praising it and some deriding it, while the council as a whole has written a letter to the Highway Administration that it wants included in the document.

Councilman Joshua Schaer, who chairs the city’s Transportation Committee, came to the meeting prepared with a list of proposed changes. He said his review of the draft record of decision raised many concerns, not the least of which are its fundamental inaccuracies.

“Some of the language in this document is without factual support,” he said, adding that many other passages amount to editorializing.

“I advise that we send our comments to Federal Highways and issue a document that supports the action the council took,” Schaer said.

Most of the council agreed, but after discussion all members concluded that more review was needed before their comments could be transmitted to the Highway Administration’s regional office in Olympia.

The agenda bill will return to the council Jan. 5, after members have compiled their proposed edits and posted them online.

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