Kenmore city officials attempting to secure State Route 522 funding

Nothing is final until the bill passes through both houses of the federal legislature, but Kenmore City Manager Frederick Stouder seems confident the city will secure the millions in funding needed to complete the final portion of improvements to State Route 522.

But even as they touted their hopes for success in Washington, D.C., at least one local leader continued to blast the city for spending too much on the roadway, as well as on the new City Hall now under construction.

Stouder and Kenmore Mayor David Baker spent part of last week in D.C., using some of that time lobbying for dollars to put toward the rebuilding of the city’s main thoroughfare.

The city needs an as-yet-undetermined amount to rebuild the state route between 65th Avenue Northeast west to the Kenmore border.

Baker said he and Stouder met with area legislators Senators Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., along with Rep. Jay Inslee, D-1. He added conversations with all three went well despite the tough economy and some major national issues vying for attention and funding among Washington lawmakers.

“We still got favorable responses,” Baker said.

But the response of Murray might prove the most important, according to Stouder. While all three legislators agreed to back funding for SR 522, Murray serves as chair of the Senate transportation and housing and urban development subcommittee. Obviously, a large portion of federal transportation funding begins, and possibly ends, at her desk.

“We feel confident that we got the attention of the appropriate people,” Stouder said.

According to Stouder, Murray pledged to place approximately $19 million into the next transportation funding bill. For his part, according to spokesperson Torie Brazitis, Inslee has promised to push for just over $23 million. Baker added the transportation bill isn’t even written yet and won’t be passed until sometime next year.

The last section of the SR 522 project still is in the design phase, according to Heidi Sowell, a spokesperson for the SR 522 improvement project. But Baker said that design is nearly finished. He added he wants the project to be nearly “shovel ready.”

“If there is a second round of (federal) stimulus money, we will be ready to go,” Baker said.

As Baker and Stouder continued to promote the work on SR 522, it was City Councilman John Hendrickson who continued to criticize what he characterized as the seemingly never ending increases in the cost of the roadwork.

According to Hendrickson, as late as 2006, the city’s portion of the project was set at $6 million even though the overall price tag had jumped from $26.7 million to $46 million. He added that when new cost summaries came out this year, the project total had leaped to $84.6 million, with the city’s portion reaching $13 million.

“This increase in city costs plus the $17 million for City Hall is going to take out the vast majority of our savings (from) the last 10 years,” Hendrickson said.

“With operating cost increases far outpacing revenue growth over the last several years,” he added, “our operating surplus is dwindling down to nothing.”

Hendrickson many times has contended that with the city’s limited revenues, maintaining an operating surplus is key.

For his part, Baker admitted the costs of the SR 522 project have undoubtedly gone up.

“The economy just started going crazy,” he said.

But Baker insisted the city has the money to finish the portions of the roadway work already under way, adding that the current improvements should wrap up in October.

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