Road jobs return, outlook gets rosier
By BENJAMIN MINNICK
Journal Construction Editor
Last year, the DJC Top Public Projects special section had only two highway projects: the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge and a deck replacement on the Lewis and Clark Bridge near Longview.
University of Washington’s Bioengineering-Genome Sciences Building
Rendering courtesy of Anshen+Allen
This year, it’s all about highways and transportation. Seven highway projects made the list, as well as a pair of transportation-related projects for Sound Transit. And there’s more to come, thanks to a nickel gas tax and Sound Transit.
“We have an increase in optimism because of the 5-cent gas tax passed by the Legislature last year,” said Bob Adams, vice president of Guy F. Atkinson Construction, which is building two of the larger highway projects on this year’s list.
Adams said the nickel tax will flow into projects over the next six years, with the largest on the Interstate 405 corridor. The first I-405 project will be in Kirkland in March 2005, followed by south Renton in January 2007, then Bellevue in January 2008 and back to Kirkland in January 2010.
“There is talk in the Legislature to raise the gas tax a penny or two to (recover) the tax that was lost with Initiative 776 ($30 car tabs),” Adams said. The odds of that happening are good, but not this year, according to Adams.
The other boost for transportation is Sound Transit. Kiewit Pacific last year was awarded two of the first major Link Light Rail contracts, totaling more than $100 million.
Highway contractors will be rubbing their hands together when Sound Transit starts improvements to its ST Express bus system over the next few years. The agency plans to spend about $425 million to widen and add direct-access ramps to area freeways. Those improvements will be contracted through the state Department of Transportation.
Sound Transit’s freeway access improvements are part of an $810 million budget that includes new transit centers and park-and-ride lots.
Jim Edwards, chief engineer for Sound Transit Regional Express, said there are 39 projects planned for the Puget Sound metro area. The next two big contracts will be for the Federal Way Transit Center and the related South 317th Street direct-access project. Both are expected to bid in March or April.
Another mass transit opportunity includes a huge contract for the Seattle Monorail Project’s Green Line, expected to bid in May. The total project budget is $1.7 billion and construction costs are estimated at $1.3 billion.
Other significant upcoming road projects include: connecting state Route 509 to Interstate 5 near Sea-Tac Airport, extending state Route 167 to the Port of Tacoma, replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle and adding capacity to the state Route 520 floating bridge.
“Long-term prospects are good. Short-term, we are still living from bid to bid,” Adams said.
-- Benjamin Minnick, Lina Korsmo Johnson, David Wise and Trista Allen edited this special section. Stan Eichwald was in charge of newspaper design. Lisa Lannigan was in charge of Web design.