The city of Lewiston could begin buying right of way along Bryden Avenue as soon as next year for a long-planned widening project, but several other moving parts have to come together before that process can begin in earnest.
City Engineer Shawn Stubbers said Public Works has a pot of about $500,000 in federal transportation funding it can start putting toward things like right of way acquisition. But the city could also put the money toward needs like preliminary design and environmental approvals.
“Now we have to make a decision on which one of those three, or a combination of those three, is the right decision for us going forward,” Stubbers said.
Public Works already had about half of the $500,000 from the Federal Highway Administration’s Surface Transportation Program, and Lewis Clark Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Shannon Grow successfully lobbied for the other half earlier this year. The Lewiston City Council will have to approve the Public Works plan on how to spend the funding once a proposal is determined, Stubbers said.
The project has been on the board for years, but construction is probably still at least a decade away since it is almost completely reliant on the availability of federal funds. An estimate from about seven years ago pegged the cost of widening the roadway from Fourth Street to Thain Road at $12 million, but that number didn’t include utility upgrades like replacing old Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District water lines that run under the street.
“We’re moving forward, but as far as putting a timetable to it, nobody has the local cash to do it,” Stubbers said. “You’re dependent on outside sources of income, and that’s what sets your schedule.”
Right of way acquisition is expected to be one of the most complicated, lengthiest and most expensive components of the project. But Stubbers cautioned that property owners along the route shouldn’t be too eager to make a quick buck by approaching the city with offers to sell a portion of their frontage since federal dollars are involved.
“That forces us to follow a strict federal process,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to come in and say ‘I’d like to sell you this much of my property’ and have that executed in a few months.”
The amount of right of way the city will need to buy varies, but in general it will amount to about 10 feet on each side of the road to achieve the desired 80-foot road width. Once complete, the road will include two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane.
The high cost of the project will also require it to be broken into phases. The first will be from Fourth to Seventh streets. The next will continue to 10th Street and the third to Thain Road. The Lewiston Urban Renewal Agency recently formed a new district around the entire project area to start accumulating property taxes on new growth that can contribute to the cost.
Widening the roadway is a high priority since it is one of the most dangerous in the city, Stubbers said. A regional transportation master plan found that the stretch between Fourth and Seventh streets is one of the most critical in the region, from both a capacity and safety standpoint, with a consistent number of accidents every year.
The Bryden intersections at Seventh and 10th streets are of particular concern, he added.
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