A much-anticipated intersection revamp in Camas was delayed at the last minute after nearly avoiding the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Construction of a roundabout at Northeast Everett Street and Northeast Lake Road was set to begin Wednesday, continuing on an aggressive timeline despite the outbreak. But that day, the project was halted due to the virus, another indicator of governments’ rapidly evolving response to the crisis.
On Tuesday, the city announced the beginning of the project’s first phase, which will require minor pedestrian re-routing and traffic delays. The Camas City Council awarded a $5.27 million contract to Clark and Sons Excavating of Battle Ground at its March 16 meeting after a bidding process. The project was expected to be finished by the end of the year.
The project qualifies as essential under Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, according to the city.
“We know these are difficult times, and we are continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation and requirements, but we are also confident things will get better,” Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall said in a news release Tuesday. “When that happens, the Lake-Everett intersection will once again be heavily used by the community, making this a necessary infrastructure improvement.”
But the next day, the city said that all of its construction projects would halt until at least April 15.
“We want to do all we can to help protect the community,” Mayor Barry McDonnell said in an email. “Holding off the work for the next two weeks would not have a significant impact on the project and would give us better perspective on the situation as it changes.”
Signs announcing the start of construction had already been placed near the intersection before Wednesday’s updated announcement.
“We’re evaluating your world on what seems like an almost hourly basis as situations change,” McDonnell told Wall during a video conversation the city posted on Wednesday.
McDonnell said he was impressed with the safety precautions that had been planned, including the use of an inspector who had the authority to shut down operations if social distancing guidelines weren’t being followed. But the city decided, instead, to take a more cautious approach.
“This is hard, right? These are difficult times for everybody,” Wall said. “When we think about our projects from a timing standpoint and people staying at home, it’s a great time for our contractors to be out there working and getting things done.”
But Wall added that safety is the city’s priority.
“We have to take this COVID-19 seriously and make sure that we’re protecting contractors and our employees and our community as a whole,” Wall said.
Camas officials have for years eyed improvements at the intersection, which connects the north and south shores of Lacamas Lake near downtown and several recreation areas. Congestion at the already busy intersection is expected to increase, causing severe traffic delays and safety concerns.
The first phase of the project, currently scheduled to last through July, will involve removing 201 trees, before later planting 524 trees. Workers will also build the center of the roundabout and widen northbound and southbound lanes, requiring occasional short-term lane closures.
The most significant traffic impacts were expected to take place in August, when the roundabout would be open but work would be performed on existing roadways. The intersection is scheduled to be fully operational by September, save for some cleanup and landscaping work.
In addition to the construction contract, the city spent $1.2 million during the design and permitting phase. Another roughly $1 million went toward construction consultant support, utility relocations and other costs.
The state Transportation Improvement Board chipped in about $2.83 million in grants, which was less than expected due to a low construction bid and may vary if construction costs change. The state Public Works Trust Fund gave the city a $4.7 million, 20-year loan at a 1.58 percent interest rate, which is expected to be paid off through transportation impact fees and real estate excise taxes.
Updates on the construction process can be found at the project webpage on the city’s website.
Four other city projects that were underway — improvements to Brady Road, construction of the 18th Avenue Reservoir, improvements to the Wastewater Treatment Plant and construction of the Lacamas Creek Pump Station — were also put on hold. Details can be found on the city’s construction update webpage.