Bill for Interstate 90 bridge reaches $6.7 million

November 1, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

The bill for the pedestrian and bicyclist connector across Interstate 90 is costing Issaquah $450,000 more than city leaders budgeted for the project.

City Administrator Bob Harrison (right) and Mayor Ava Frisinger lead Issaquah and regional officials across the Interstate 90 pedestrian bridge Oct. 26. By Greg Farrar

The total budget for the project is about $6.7 million, up from the $6.2 million set aside to complete the bridge across the interstate at state Route 900. The budget increase accommodates engineering expenses, construction cost and construction management cost increases, and legal and permitting fees related to the connector.

The change increases the amount of city dollars used in a project approved in part because the federal government and Sound Transit offered to cover substantial costs.

Construction delays and other issues — such as using off-duty police officers for traffic control near the construction site — caused costs to mount. The city set aside about $314,000 as contingency funds for the project, but the overruns caused the project to exhaust the backup dollars.

Officials transferred the $450,000 to cover the overrun from the account used to fund equipment replacements to close the budget gap. City Council members OK’d the adjustment Oct. 17.

The city used infusions from the federal government and Sound Transit to complete the connector. Initially, city officials contributed about $354,000 to the project.

Construction started in July 2010, and the connector opened to users almost a year later, months after the scheduled opening date. The project stalled last autumn after crews needed to dig deeper to reach a sturdier soil layer to support concrete-and-steel piers beneath the bridge.

The pier problem also caused a dispute between the city and the subcontractor responsible for drilling the pier shafts, Federal Way-based DBM Contractors.

The bridge opened to sign-carrying protesters July 1, after more than a decade of planning and sometimes-contentious discussions among city officials, transit advocates and trails enthusiasts.

How the connector fits in

The pedestrian and bicyclist connector at Interstate 90 and state Route 900 provides a trail connection to other city trails and to the King County Regional Trails System, including the Interstate 90 Cross-State Trail, East Lake Sammamish Trail, Issaquah-Preston Trail and Preston-Snoqualmie Trail.

Though the outcry rose after crews started building the connector, council members heard only support from residents before approving the project in late 2009. Only then-Councilman David Kappler opposed the effort to build the connector.

City Council candidate TJ Filley has made the connector a major issue in the campaign for the Position 4 seat.

The incumbent, Councilman Joshua Schaer, serves on the Council Transportation Committee — the panel responsible for overseeing the project and other transportation programs.

Proponents said the pedestrian bridge offers another connection to a regional trails network stretching from Issaquah and south to the Cedar River and along the Mountains to Sound Greenway.

In a brief ceremony on the bridge Oct. 26, Mayor Ava Frisinger and other city leaders said the connector promotes “salmon-friendly commuting” by encouraging people to travel on bicycles and on foot, rather than in vehicles.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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