Despite receiving approximately $457,000 in grant funding from the state Transportation Improvement Board, the city of Bingen's planned reconstruction of a portion of Maple Street continues to face a serious funding shortfall.
According to Mayor Brian Prigel, Bingen needs roughly an additional $625,000 to fully fund the project, considered one of the top infrastructure efforts in the city this year.
Sealed bids on the Maple Street construction were opened last week, and Nutter Corp. of Vancouver is the "apparent low bidder," Prigel said, but the Bingen City Council had not yet formally awarded the contract as of March 18.
Nutter put in a bid of $449,355 for the work.
Planned is the widening of Maple Street from its intersection with State Route 14 to where it intersects with Lakeview Boulevard, a distance of about two blocks.
Maple Street crosses the BNSF Railway tracks, and concrete pads will be placed between all four sets of rails at that crossing. The concrete pads smooth the drive over the tracks, but currently, only the main track has the pad.
Prigel pointed out that the cost for upgrading the railroad crossing alone was pegged at about $300,000.
The new signal gates recently installed at the Maple Street crossing were funded by a federal safety grant.
Besides the repaving and widening, sidewalks will be installed on the east side of the roadway, as well as landscaping with trees.
Maple Street, which leads to the Bingen Point area, has been seeing increased traffic, and that traffic is expected to grow further with upcoming expansion at Insitu and at Innovative Composites Engineering, two growing companies with major facilities at the Port of Klickitat's Bingen Point property.
Prigel pointed out that the project has benefits beyond the Bingen city limits.
"It's really a mess down there," Prigel said. "This is important to the city due to safety concerns for the people walking there, and it's important to the Port of Klickitat and the county. There are a lot more cars going there now, and that is the reason we feel the county, or the Port, should rightly contribute. But the Port doesn't have a lot of money."
City officials have asked the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority for help with the costs.
"We went to the EDA Board meeting last Thursday," Prigel explained. "They were pretty supportive. We're hopeful they can contribute $100,000-$200,000. We're not expecting much more, but I think they will contribute some."
Klickitat County Commissioner Rex Johnston said the commissioners would discuss ways to help fund the project, but no final decision has yet been made.
"I can't speak for the other commissioners, but I think we'd like to help if we can," Johnston said. "We'll make every effort for Bingen. It depends on the amount of money we have."
Johnston added that the state is likely to contribute to fund the project as well.
"Bingen has an opportunity to get more money from the state, and the state is waiting to see what amount of local cooperation they get," Johnston explained. "We won't be able to give them the entire amount, but as for how much we can give, we'll have to look at that. Anything that's going to help the Port of Klickitat I think would be a good thing."
Prigel noted that the project was originally scheduled for completion in 2007, and rising construction costs are part of the reason the city faces a shortfall on funding.
"The actual construction of the roadway has gone up," Prigel said. "The bids were 10 percent over the engineer's estimates."
If the city cannot come up with the necessary money, Prigel said the project could be scaled back -- or not awarded at all in a worst case situation.
"We're pretty confident we'll come up with enough money to do it," Prigel said. "We're looking forward to getting it done, but I hope we don't have to take money from other projects we're trying to do."