One of North County’s busiest intersections is set to receive millions of dollars in funding to help improve the traffic flow.
On Oct. 1, the Regional Transportation Council of Southwest Washington voted to approve more than a dozen grants for projects in its jurisdiction, including $2 million for improvements of the State Route 502/503 intersection in Battle Ground. The money will help fund a project that will add right turn lanes and dual left turn lanes in the northbound direction and “porkchop” islands between vehicle lanes for pedestrian safety, according to a project grant summary from the RTC.
The $2 million was part of more than $14 million in total granted by the RTC to 15 different projects, according to the summary.
The grant opportunity was somewhat of a new avenue to fund a multi-phase project the city has undertaken with state funding to improve traffic flow at the intersection.
Battle Ground Mayor Mike Dalesandro said that when he spoke out about the denial of state funds for the project after this year’s legislative session, it caught the attention of RTC staff, who let the city know about the grant opportunity. This year, the city’s only request for state funds during the session was $1.3 million for an inflation adjustment that was not approved by the close of the session April 28.
“I guess saying something helped in this situation,” Dalesandro said, adding that during his tenure on city council he wasn’t aware of such an opportunity.
“We found out about (the opportunity) a little late in the game, but (staff was) able to pull it all together,” Dalesandro said.
The project the $2 million will fund is scheduled for 2021, according to information from the RTC. Dalesandro said that the timeframe did delay initial projections for construction by a year.
Even with the $2 million grant, the city still needs to make up the difference for the project, which the RTC estimates will be $3.4 million in total, according to the project grant summary. Dalesandro said the city would likely be relying on state money to get the project fully funded.
Dalesandro said he could foresee a complication should Initiative 976 pass. He said he’s heard if the initiative, which would limit the cost of renewing vehicle tabs, were to pass it could affect projects initially covered in the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation improvement plan, of which improvements to the 502/503 intersection is one.
The funding is for the second of three phases of construction undertaken to improve circulation around the intersection, the first of which began in 2017. Dalesandro stressed the importance of the project, saying that the intersection saw 52,000 car trips daily.
“It’s critical for Battle Ground. It’s critical for North County,” Dalesandro said.
He reiterated sentiments he voiced earlier this year when funding from the Legislature didn’t come, hoping that the city wouldn’t be on the hook for getting the project completed.
“These are two state highways. The promise was made to our community from the legislators. We made that promise as a city to our community that this (project) is going to happen,” Dalesandro said. “We just want Olympia to follow through on their promise.”
A full list of projects receiving grant funds from the RTC can be viewed at rtc.wa.gov/programs/tip/docs/GrantAwards2019.pdf.