After a one year delay the long-planned for project to improve the safety of State Route 26 West of Colfax has gotten too expensive to complete as initially planned.
Plans have been on the books for years to add 4 passing lane segments on State Route 26 between Colfax and Dusty. Regional Washington Department of Transportation spokesman Ryan Overton says that the low bid for the work came in 26% higher than the agency’s estimate. Overton says the cost overruns forced WSDOT to award a separate bid to only build 3 climbing lane segments. The Westbound climbing lane for the hill just West of the fairgrounds has been removed from the project. Overton says the state still owns the land for the remaining segment which means it could be constructed in the future with direction from the Washington Legislature.
The cost overruns come less than a year after WSDOT delayed the project because of land acquisition issues and the pandemic. In July the agency explained that the work had to be delayed for a year until 2022 for a variety of reasons including “network connectivity issues” with state employees working from home.
The saga to improve the safety of the main cross-state route for Washington State University students began in 2015. That’s when the Washington Legislature approved a 6 cents per gallon gas tax hike to pay for several highway projects. One of those projects was to build 4 passing lane segments on SR26 between Colfax and Dusty.
The initial bill scheduled the work to being in 2024. In 2019, a bill from local Washington State Senator Mark Schoesler was approved to move up the construction schedule to 2021. WSDOT stated in July that the contract would go out to bid in November. The project bid was delayed as the state agency didn’t advertise the work until this Spring.
You can listen to Overton comment about the project moving forward by clicking on the audio file below.
A construction company out of Spokane was awarded a 5.5 million dollar contract to build the 3 passing lane segments for SR26. Uphill climbing lanes in each direction will be constructed between the “Twin Bridges” on Union Flat Creek and Dusty. The other lane will be constructed Eastbound on the hill climb from Union Flat toward the fairgrounds. The work is set to start in June.