Why is it taking so long for work to begin on the long-delayed State Route 14 reconstruction project through downtown Bingen?
According to Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel, the answer is the same one we've been hearing for years: A right of way acquisition issue is holding up the project.
"The state had to buy 13 parcels [to make way for the widening project]," Prigel explained. "Many property owners were agreeable, but a few always think that since this is a state project, their property is suddenly worth millions."
Prigel said the property of the last owner holding out would be condemned, and the construction would not be held up much longer.
The state is now planning to advertise for construction bids on the project beginning Dec. 30.
With the bidding now scheduled, a spokesperson for the city said construction work on SR 14 is expected to get started by the end of February.
Prigel pointed out that the city has been concerned that grant money designed to help pay for the highway modernization could be pulled if the work gets delayed any further. However, if the announced timeline for bids on the project is met, the grants are not expected to be at risk.
According to Prigel, the contractor will begin work on the north side of SR 14 in the downtown area first, then will halt downtown work for the summer tourist season. Work will continue from Willow Street west to the Hood River Toll Bridge.
"They can start that and work there through the summer," Prigel said.