Winlock Mayor Lonnie Dowell has confirmed a grant to help replace Fir St. bridge is expected to soon be approved by the state and the project could end up costing the city no funding out of pocket.
During an interview Friday, Dowell stated engineers with HDJ have learned a grant request submitted to the state's Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) is expected to be approved for $567,000 which, when coupled with a $3.63 million federal grant, should cover all costs for replacing Fir St. Bridge and repairing portions of Walnut St. Bridge.
"It looks like Fir St. will be a free bridge if we can get going soon," said Dowell, indicating the city has until the end of 2016 to complete the project if they wish to spend no funding from the city budget as the $567,000 expected to be approved by TIB would cover a 13.5 percent match obligation for the federal grant, while the match would increase to 20 percent if the project is completed after 2016.
According to preliminary estimates submitted by engineering firm OTAK, the new bridge could be completed as soon as December of next year, with construction expected to begin next May after the project is designed and sent out for bids. Dowell has said, according to feedback from TIB, the state would not be willing to approve an amount greater than the 13.5 percent match, so it is anticipated the city will make every effort to complete the project on time.
It is also worth noting the funds have not been officially approved by TIB or the state legislature, and will also need to be officially accepted by the Winlock City Council to become available.
Fir St. Bridge has been closed to all pedestrian and vehicle traffic since March 13, 2014, after an engineering report indicated serious structural concerns, and those attempting to cross are currently at risk of a trespassing offense, as well as serious harm if the bridge collapses, according to City Hall.