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Port directors, legislators to discuss Highway 12 project

WALLA WALLA, Washington – While the next phase of improvements to U.S. 12 has been delayed in response to the passage of Initiative 976, Port of Walla Walla Executive Director Pat Reay said a lot has been accomplished in just the past month. Phase 7 of U.S. 12, an 11-mile stretch between Frenchtown Vicinity and Nine Mile Hill, is one of the larger projects that are currently delayed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“The Washington State Department of Transportation, our regional folks, have looked at and reviewed three vendor’s designs,” Reay said. “It’s a design-build process, so there were three contractor teams that submitted designs.”

Reay said those designs have been evaluated and some incentives have been established.

“So there’s been some dollars on the table for having the creative designs for cost savings,” he said. “That’s been completed and moved onto WSDOT headquarters in Olympia.”

Reay said Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 11 a.m. is the official bid opening.

“Next Wednesday, we’ll know exactly what the bids are from the three pre-qualified design-build teams and there will be a number,” he said. “The number will be the construction costs.”

Reay said the port knows that two of the three have estimates that are below WSDOT’s estimates.

“That’s a good sign.  It’s going to be competitive.  There could be some cost savings,” he said.

Reay said WSDOT continues to move forward through the elements all the way up to making an award they just cannot execute a contract until they get out of the delayed status.

A port contingency will travel to Olympia next week to attend the bid opening and talk to the state House of Representatives and Senate transportation committee members.

“Impressing upon them the importance of keeping this project on tract, on time, getting it out of the delayed status,” Reay said. “Again, all of the milestones are executed, other than the state executing a contract and issuing a notice to proceed.”

Reay said adding four lanes to U.S. 12 has been a priority for this community for over two decades.

“We’re one of the largest communities in the state that doesn’t have a four-lane highway access.  And that’s key for economic development and it’s key for freight mobility, safety,” he said.

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