East Sunset Way upgrade could be delayed as federal highway funding hits snag

March 2, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 11:30 a.m. March 2, 2010

The state secretary of transportation urged Congress on Monday to approve dollars needed to widen the East Sunset Way approach to Interstate 90.

A key federal transportation-funding act expired midnight Feb. 28. Reimbursements from the Highway Trust Fund have been suspended while lawmakers work out a deal to extend the act.

The state stands to lose money already spent on projects backed by the federal government. State officials usually hire contractors to complete projects, and then contractors submit invoices to the state when the work is completed. The state pays the bills, and officials submit invoices to the federal government to be reimbursed for money already sent to contractors.

Delays would force Washington and other states to keep cash on hand to pay contractors.

“At a time when transportation investments are seen as one of the best economic recovery tools the failure of reenactment of the highway trust fund is unacceptable,” state Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said in a statement. “Our state transportation system relies on federal gas tax funds for basic preservation of our highways bridges and ferries, as well as transit infrastructure investments.”

In Issaquah, the $3.5 million East Sunset Way project stands to receive $2.3 million in federal money. Snags related to money from the federal government could delay the state from advertising the project to contractors.

Plans call for the project to start in May and for work to last about six months. Although most work will take place off the roadway, the project will require up to 60 nighttime closures, when a single lane will remain open and flag crews will direct traffic.

State officials expected to receive about $13.5 million in federal reimbursements Wednesday. A paving project on state Route 516 near Covington could also face delays.

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