Federal funds keep East Sunset Way project on schedule

March 9, 2010

By Staff

The state secretary of transportation urged Congress last week 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. Lawmakers broke a partisan logjam related to the funding March 2, but not before state Department of Transportation officials weighed in.

The state stood 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.

State officials expected to receive about $13.5 million in federal reimbursements March 3. Delays could have forced Washington and other states to keep cash on hand to pay contractors.

Senators passed a temporary 30-day extension of the act, the fourth month-by-month extension of Highway Trust Fund authorization.

“We appreciate the hard work of Washington’s federal delegation to pass this temporary extension,” state Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said in a released statement. “The lack of an agreement on a longer extension is very concerning. It inhibits our ability to plan and deliver projects that enhance safety, improve community livability and reduce congestion in our state.”

In Issaquah, the $3.5 million East Sunset Way project stands to receive $2.3 million in federal money.

Plans call for the project to start in May and 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.

Senators voted 78-19 to pass legislation with a 30-day extension of SAFETEA-LU, the federal transportation-funding act. The bill had earlier passed the House of Representatives; President Obama signed the legislation into law last week.

“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,” Hammond said. “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.”

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