City celebrates completion of parkway expansion project

July 3, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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By Jim Feehan and David Hayes
The completion of Coal Creek Parkway this month marks a three-phase, eight-year journey. The city’s largest Public Works project relieves the bottleneck through Newcastle along the regional thoroughfare that connects Renton and Bellevue by widening Coal Creek Parkway from two lanes to four lanes from Newcastle Way to the Southeast 95th Way.
Later this month, various local, state and federal officials will return to Coal Creek Parkway to commemorate the completion of the project. The ceremony is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 16.
“I feel great pride in the completion of Coal Creek Parkway improvements,” said City Councilwoman Jean Garber, who was at the initial ribbon cutting ceremony six years ago. “It shows that with a commitment on the part of the council and staff, Newcastle’s limited resources can be leveraged to achieve a monumental outcome.
“I hope residents who walk, bike, or drive this scenic roadway share the pride I feel. To me, the red bridge is a symbol of what we can accomplish when we all work together.”
First plans face hurdles
City officials wanted to widen the parkway since Newcastle incorporated in 1994. The first step 10 years ago was approving a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan that included the following estimates:
q Phase one — $11.8 million for widening, pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, signals, lighting, median and transit facilities, from Southeast 84th Place to Southeast 72nd Place.
q Phase two — $19.4 million for similar projects from Southeast 95th Street to Southeast 84th Place.
Construction was slated to start in summer 2000, with phase one completed in 2003.
The first hurdle to the project came in 2000, when 11 homeowners refused to sell their properties along the western edge of the parkway project. They claimed the city’s representative either didn’t negotiate in good faith or underbid what their properties were actually worth. After 10 other homeowners agreed to sell, the City Council voted Feb. 15, 2000, to condemn the 11 properties of holdout homeowners.
The project hit its second hurdle when city officials decided to delay the start until spring 2001 after experiencing issues with permits, property acquisitions and funding.
City officials negotiated with the property owners, needing a court order to acquire the final property. That cleared the way for bids to go out, and city officials approved a $5.767 million contract to Marshbank Construction, of Lake Stevens. Groundbreaking was finally kicked off March 16, 2002.
The first phase of the project widened the parkway from two lanes to four between Newcastle Way to the entrance of the Olympus neighborhood and Lake Boren Park at Southeast 84th Street. Improvements included a median, left turn lanes, additional traffic signals, bicycle lanes and sidewalks.
Funding becomes an issue
As city officials searched for additional sources of funding to meet growing costs for phases two and three, the City Council considered dropping the later phases if that search was not successful. Another $1 million injection from the county transportation budget kept plans for phase two alive.
Cost overruns, including the need to blast apart a rockslide, drove the cost of phase one up to $14.4 million.
Each member of the City Council, as well as several Planning Commission members and city staff were on hand to celebrate the opening of the first phase of the project during a November 2003 ribbon cutting ceremony. Following speeches from city and county representatives, a group of council members and children paraded up Coal Creek Parkway for a few blocks in vintage cars. Phase one opened to traffic Nov. 8, 2003.
Two years later, the city received an $11.3 million grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board for the completion of phases two and three.
Transportation projects in the state move forward with the help of competitive state grants awarded by the board, which was created by the Legislature to foster state investments in local projects.
Engineering for phases two and three were about 60 percent complete when the grant was announced. Up to that point, the board had invested $25 million in five earlier stages of Coal Creek Parkway, stretching from Interstate 405 in Bellevue, through Newcastle and south to state Route 900 in the Renton Highlands.
In February 2006, design elements for the final two phases of the parkway were unanimously approved by the City Council. They included plans for sidewalks, realigning Southeast 89th Place with Coal Creek Parkway and the design for the May Creek Bridge, with sidewalks on both sides and a center meridian. The design called for the bridge to be topped with several arches reminiscent of the original May Creek Railroad trestle in contemporary form. The trusses that run the length of the bridge are painted brick red.
‘Bold action paid off’
Stevan Gorcester, the executive director of the state Transportation Improvement Board, applauded the city’s efforts to secure funding for the parkway and tackling such a large Public Works project.
“I am thrilled to see the successful completion of this project,” Gorcester said. “The city took on a big project and they assumed some risk. Sometimes, you have to take bold action and that bold action paid off.”
Coal Creek Parkway is a major arterial paralleling Interstate 405 and will grow more important in the coming months as the state undertakes a major upgrade to I-405, he said.
Construction of the final mile of the Coal Creek Parkway project began in September 2007, widening the parkway from Southeast 84th Street to Southeast 95th Way and replacing the narrow two-lane May Creek Bridge, which was built in 1951. The parkway remained open during the past 22 months as crews demolished the old bridge, widened the roadway, added bike lanes and sidewalks and built a retaining wall north of the Highlands entrance to the intersection of Southeast 89th Place.
The project came in under budget and on time. In the waning hours of this year’s session, the Legislature came through with $3 million for the project.
Maiya Andrews, the city’s Public Works director, said the city is thankful for its funding partners and the trust they placed in Newcastle spending their money wisely.
The parkway improvements will help commuters who opt to bypass I-405, but it also offers amenities to pedestrians and bicyclists, Andrews said.
“This is something we can look back at and be proud of,” she said.
The May Creek Bridge, open to traffic May 26, features wider sidewalks. By Greg Farrar

The May Creek Bridge, open to traffic May 26, features wider sidewalks. By Greg Farrar

The completion of Coal Creek Parkway this month marks a three-phase, eight-year journey. The city’s largest Public Works project relieves the bottleneck through Newcastle along the regional thoroughfare that connects Renton and Bellevue by widening Coal Creek Parkway from two lanes to four lanes from Newcastle Way to the Southeast 95th Way.Later this month, various local, state and federal officials will return to Coal Creek Parkway to commemorate the completion of the project. The ceremony is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 16.

“I feel great pride in the completion of Coal Creek Parkway improvements,” said City Councilwoman Jean Garber, who was at the initial ribbon cutting ceremony six years ago. “It shows that with a commitment on the part of the council and staff, Newcastle’s limited resources can be leveraged to achieve a monumental outcome.

“I hope residents who walk, bike, or drive this scenic roadway share the pride I feel. To me, the red bridge is a symbol of what we can accomplish when we all work together.”

First plans face hurdles

City officials wanted to widen the parkway since Newcastle incorporated in 1994. The first step 10 years ago was approving a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan that included the following estimates:

  • Phase one — $11.8 million for widening, pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, signals, lighting, median and transit facilities, from Southeast 84th Place to Southeast 72nd Place.
  • Phase two — $19.4 million for similar projects from Southeast 95th Street to Southeast 84th Place.

Construction was slated to start in summer 2000, with phase one completed in 2003.

The first hurdle to the project came in 2000, when 11 homeowners refused to sell their properties along the western edge of the parkway project. They claimed the city’s representative either didn’t negotiate in good faith or underbid what their properties were actually worth. After 10 other homeowners agreed to sell, the City Council voted Feb. 15, 2000, to condemn the 11 properties of holdout homeowners.

The project hit its second hurdle when city officials decided to delay the start until spring 2001 after experiencing issues with permits, property acquisitions and funding.

City officials negotiated with the property owners, needing a court order to acquire the final property. That cleared the way for bids to go out, and city officials approved a $5.767 million contract to Marshbank Construction, of Lake Stevens. Groundbreaking was finally kicked off March 16, 2002.

The first phase of the project widened the parkway from two lanes to four between Newcastle Way to the entrance of the Olympus neighborhood and Lake Boren Park at Southeast 84th Street. Improvements included a median, left turn lanes, additional traffic signals, bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

Funding becomes an issue

As city officials searched for additional sources of funding to meet growing costs for phases two and three, the City Council considered dropping the later phases if that search was not successful. Another $1 million injection from the county transportation budget kept plans for phase two alive.

Cost overruns, including the need to blast apart a rockslide, drove the cost of phase one up to $14.4 million.

Each member of the City Council, as well as several Planning Commission members and city staff were on hand to celebrate the opening of the first phase of the project during a November 2003 ribbon cutting ceremony. Following speeches from city and county representatives, a group of council members and children paraded up Coal Creek Parkway for a few blocks in vintage cars. Phase one opened to traffic Nov. 8, 2003.

Two years later, the city received an $11.3 million grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board for the completion of phases two and three.

Transportation projects in the state move forward with the help of competitive state grants awarded by the board, which was created by the Legislature to foster state investments in local projects.

Engineering for phases two and three were about 60 percent complete when the grant was announced. Up to that point, the board had invested $25 million in five earlier stages of Coal Creek Parkway, stretching from Interstate 405 in Bellevue, through Newcastle and south to state Route 900 in the Renton Highlands.

In February 2006, design elements for the final two phases of the parkway were unanimously approved by the City Council. They included plans for sidewalks, realigning Southeast 89th Place with Coal Creek Parkway and the design for the May Creek Bridge, with sidewalks on both sides and a center meridian. The design called for the bridge to be topped with several arches reminiscent of the original May Creek Railroad trestle in contemporary form. The trusses that run the length of the bridge are painted brick red.

‘Bold action paid off’

Stevan Gorcester, the executive director of the state Transportation Improvement Board, applauded the city’s efforts to secure funding for the parkway and tackling such a large Public Works project.

“I am thrilled to see the successful completion of this project,” Gorcester said. “The city took on a big project and they assumed some risk. Sometimes, you have to take bold action and that bold action paid off.”

Coal Creek Parkway is a major arterial paralleling Interstate 405 and will grow more important in the coming months as the state undertakes a major upgrade to I-405, he said.

Construction of the final mile of the Coal Creek Parkway project began in September 2007, widening the parkway from Southeast 84th Street to Southeast 95th Way and replacing the narrow two-lane May Creek Bridge, which was built in 1951. The parkway remained open during the past 22 months as crews demolished the old bridge, widened the roadway, added bike lanes and sidewalks and built a retaining wall north of the Highlands entrance to the intersection of Southeast 89th Place.

The project came in under budget and on time. In the waning hours of this year’s session, the Legislature came through with $3 million for the project.

Maiya Andrews, the city’s Public Works director, said the city is thankful for its funding partners and the trust they placed in Newcastle spending their money wisely.

The parkway improvements will help commuters who opt to bypass I-405, but it also offers amenities to pedestrians and bicyclists, Andrews said.

“This is something we can look back at and be proud of,” she said.

COAL CREEK  PARKWAY TIMELINE

  • August 1999 City Council approves city’s changes to its six-year Transportation Improvement Plan, estimating $11.8 million funding will be needed for phase one and $19.4 million for phase two of the Coal Creek Parkway project.
  • Feb. 15, 2000 City condemns 11 properties of owners who have not yet agreed to sell their land to make way for the parkway project.
  • July 5, 2000 City pushes back the start of project to spring 2001 after problems with permits, property acquisition and funding.
  • November 2000 The King County Council agrees to chip in $1 million for funding of phase one of the project.
  • July 2001 Two families settle condemnation disputes with the city, leaving seven families holding and contesting offered settlements to acquire their land.
  • August 2001 State and local funding of $17.3 million for the first two phases of the project is assured.
  • September 2001 One outstanding property acquisition, out of 23, remains unsettled.
  • Oct. 12, 2001 A court order sides with the city on the final property, allowing access to the property for the project.
  • Dec. 20, 2001 Bids are opened for phase one (Newcastle Way to Southeast 84th Way).
  • Jan. 8, 2002 Contract awarded to Marshbank Construction.
  • March 16, 2002 Groundbreaking is done for phase one.
  • September 2002 City officials say $3.2 million of funding from outside sources is needed to complete the three phases of the project.
  • October 2002 Funding costs climb to $4 million; City Council considers dropping phases one and two if additional funding isn’t found.
  • April 2003 City council approves $1.8 million design contract to engineering firm CH2M Hill for second and third phases.
  • Sept. 18, 2003 Coal Creek Parkway reopens to traffic as phase one nears completion.
  • October 2003 City begins acquiring property for phase two.
  • Nov. 8, 2003 Ribbon cutting for phase one is held.
  • July 2004 State and local engineers review the city’s phase two plans, known as value engineering, providing several recommendations that could save $3.7 million in costs.
  • October 2004 While the administration and City Council wrangle over mitigation costs for phase one, the second and third phases are delayed in design.
  • June 20, 2005 City Council hears proposals from designer CH2M Hill two ways to cut between $500,000 – $700,000 from parkway costs, still at least $20 million short of the $27 million to $33 million estimated total cost for phases one and two.
  • Oct. 18, 2005 The City Council approves a plan that could place the city $4.5 million in debt to secure a $12 million transportation grant.
  • Nov. 18, 2005 City receives $12.35 million in grants — $11.3 million from the Transportation Improvement Board and $1.5 million from the county.
  • Jan. 17, 2006 City Council approves seven design elements for phases two and three.
  • February 2006 The design is at 60 percent completion for phases two and three.
  • March 2006 The state approves $4.7 million funding for phases two and three.
  • April 2007 The project is $6.2 million over budget, at $38.2 million, up from an original $32 million estimate.
  • May 2007 The city adds $1 million from reserve funds to defray project costs.
  • July 24, 2007 A $12.9 million phase three contract is awarded to CA Carey (Southeast 91st Street to Southeast 95th Way/bridge).
  • Aug.14, 2007 A $15.9 million phase two contract is awarded to Marshbank Construction (Southeast 84th Way to Southeast 91st).
  • Oct. 11, 2007 Groundbreaking is held for phases two and three.
  • July 30, 2008 Demolition begins on old May Creek Bridge.
  • April 27, 2009 The state awards $3 million in final funding for phases two and three.
  • July 16, 2009 Ribbon cutting is held for phases two and three.
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