As the six-month Puget Sound Energy gas main replacement project on 56th Street Southwest is finishing up this month, the City of Mountlake Terrace is preparing for some other general street, utility and sidewalk improvements along much of the same stretch of roadway through the city’s downtown district.
The Mountlake Terrace Main Street Revitalization Project has been a vision of city officials since 2004. Design work is now underway on roadway, sidewalk, utility and amenities upgrades in the Town Center District, with construction possibly beginning by Jan. 1, 2015.
The city wants to make improvements along 56th Avenue West between 230th and 236th Streets Southwest, and west of 56th along 236th Street Southwest to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. The work would include repaving the roadways, widening sidewalks, undergrounding overhead utilities, adding bicycle lanes, upgrading pedestrian lighting and installing benches, trees and bicycle racks. City officials say the improvements would draw new development to the district that has been zoned for mixed-use commercial and residential buildings of up to five stories.
Cost for the work is estimated at $12 million, up from original projections of $10.5 million six years ago. “Although the current estimated cost is higher than the initial estimate, it is still affordable, especially with anticipated funding from grants and state or federal allocations,” wrote Shane Hope, City of Mountlake Terrace Community and Economic Development Director in a Dec. 2, 2013 memorandum.
MLT Main Street Revitalization Project cost estimates
$ 1.5 million for design and survey work
$ 1.9 million for undergrounding utilities
$ 1.1 million for proposed steam energy district
$ .5 million for street and pedestrian lighting
$ 1.0 million for storm, water and sewer improvements
$ .3 million for trees and tree grates
$ 5.7 million for construction and inspection
$12.0 million required for completion
Efforts to create revenues to complete the Main Street Revitalization Project are taking place on the local, state and federal levels. The city has already secured more than $2.6 million in state and federal appropriations, with hopes of obtaining more.
To raise funds for the revitalization work, city officials added a $20 license tab renewal fee in 2012 for vehicles registered in Mountlake Terrace. They believe that fee will bring in $5.7 million over 20 years. Another $356,000 will come from other city funds, leaving approximately $3.3 million needed to reach the project’s total price tag.
MLT Main Street Revitalization Project funding
$ 5.7 million from $20 license tab fee collections (July 2012 – June 2032)
$ 2.0 million already awarded from Washington State Capital Budget appropriation
$ 644,000 from Washington state grant
$ 356,000 from City of Mountlake Terrace funds
$ 3.3 million being sought from state or federal transportation funding sources
$12.0 million total funding needed
Last year a $2 million appropriation for Mountlake Terrace was part of a Washington State House of Representative transportation supplemental budget proposal that failed to come to a vote in the state Senate. Negotiations are now taking place in Olympia on that $10 billion transportation package that may again include funds for Mountlake Terrace’s town center. The budget package would be paid for with a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in the state gasoline tax.
In Washington D.C., District 2 Congressman Rick Larsen is pushing for the U.S. Department of Transportation to set aside some of its $600 million in grant funds for cities like Mountlake Terrace. The federal agency will divvy out its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funds to cities and jurisdictions for various road, rail, transit and port projects this year; Larsen wants to see Mountlake Terrace get some of that money.
“TIGER grants create jobs by investing in our roads, bridges and highways,” Larsen said in a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx earlier this month. “But smaller cities like many in my district do not have the resources to complete for those jobs with big cities like New York and San Francisco.” Larsen is hoping the federal transportation department will set aside 20 percent of TIGER grant money for cities the size of Mountlake Terrace to obtain for their infrastructure projects.
While city officials are confident that funding will be secured to complete the Town Center Revitalization Project, one element of the work may be dropped from its plans. The proposal originally included plans for the installation of turbines and hydronic piping to supply steam energy to new development in the Town Center District. Now city officials may drop the idea of the “energy district” due to costs and requirements for developers to connect to the steam energy system.
“We’re still chasing moneys to even complete the project,” noted City Councilmember Doug McCardle at a Jan. 15 City Council meeting. While the $12 million cost of the city’s revitalization project included the cost of installing underground piping for the energy district infrastructure, it did not include the cost of the turbines needed to create the steam and power the system.
McCardle also pointed out that the Arbor Village mixed-use project already completed at 236th Street SW and 56th Avenue West, and the new Vineyard Park assisted living complex now being constructed just north of Rogers Market are not prepared to connect to the proposed energy district infrastructure.
The city has made no definitive plans on scrapping the energy district concept, and will likely stay with plans to lay the piping for the project so that it is there in case turbines are purchases, installed and energy to the district is eventually supplied by them. As for the rest of the Town Center District upgrades, look for them to be completed sometime in 2016, officials said.
— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski