Bremerton City Council will let tunnel project live, for now

With an 8-1 vote, the Bremerton City Council decided Wednesday night not to kill the proposed tunnel project before it starts. Council Member Cecil McConnel, district 2, cast the lone dissenting vote.

After a two-and-one-half-hour public comment phase that included both impassioned pleas for and against the process, the council agreed to a $4 million contract with Exceltech Consulting for the design phase. The design phase will include an environmental impact report on the project.

The tunnel project will be the city’s answer to alleviating traffic congestion from the Kitsap Transportation Center to the freeway. City traffic studies have proven that approximately 200 cars drive off the ferry, down Washington Street and turn on Burwell Street to get to the freeway.

The tunnel project, which is now in the design phase, will entail building an underground tunnel from the transportation center to Burwell Street, making it safer for pedestrians downtown.

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-6), who openly touts being a “hometown boy” whenever he is in Bremerton, has earmarked federal funds to help the project along.

“Don’t worry about the money. You’ve got the money,” Dicks told the council in a pep-rally style speech. “I’ve never seen a more compelling case for a project like this. We’re only going to have one chance to do this. We may never have the stars aligned to do this again.”

Dicks repeatedly promised the council the projected $28 million traffic solution would be covered with federal funds.

The design phase will encompass five possibilities: three different tunnel designs, a surface solution or a for the council to take no action.

The last alternative — no action — was included to safeguard the city from having to pay back any federal funds if the council decides against the project.

The public will have an opportunity to provide input at two district town meetings. City Council Members Wayne Olsen and McConnell will hold the next District 1 and 2 town meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Sheridan Park Recreation Center located at the corner of Lebo Boulevard and Claire Avenue. City Council Members Will Maupin and Mike Short will hold a District 8 and 9 town meeting from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 28.

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