Senate puts $2 million toward US 2/West Cashmere Bridge

Hawkins credits bridge ‘ambassadors’ for budget appropriation

OLYMPIA…The long-standing effort to replace the 85-year-old US 2/West Cashmere Bridge received a $2 million boost in the Senate-approved 2017-19 transportation budget today.

Twelfth Legislative District Sen. Brad Hawkins said the Senate appropriation, if carried through to the final 2017-19 transportation budget, would raise the combination of federal, state and local funding commitments to a total of $20 million. A new bridge is expected to cost $23 million.

Hawkins said credit for the Senate appropriation belongs to local ambassadors for the project who met with the Senate and House transportation committee chairs March 22.

“The committee leaders heard directly from the county, the city, the school district, the port, the transportation council and Crunch Pak, and that presentation – along with our continued advocacy – helped make this additional funding possible,” he said.

“Our local officials presented a compelling case for a new bridge – how it’s critical for freight mobility and public safety, and most of the funding is lined up already. I think the committee chairs came away with a firm understanding of the need for this project and what a priority it is for our area,” said Hawkins, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The current bridge, on Goodwin Road west of Cashmere, crosses over the BNSF rail line and the Wenatchee River. Local officials worry it may fail to the point of closure within five years, and the condition of the bridge is constraining local economic development efforts.

Weight restrictions already force heavy trucks to move through downtown Cashmere – including some 250 trucks per week associated with Crunch Pak, the packaged-fruit company that is the city’s largest private employer.

The bridge also represents a primary route for emergency responders because on average, more than two dozen trains pass through town every 24 hours, often blocking surface-road crossings.

The bridge-replacement project has been a high priority with local officials for many years and was highlighted in Chelan County’s 2009 comprehensive plan. Later that year the federal government agreed to put up $12 million, and the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council awarded another $1 million in federal funds under its control. However, the bridge was not included in the Legislature’s 2015 “Connecting Washington” package of transportation projects.

Hawkins said, “It’s unusual to get this much funding outside of a gas tax. I’m very excited with what we’ve accomplished so far, and I’m optimistic that this project will be reflected in the next version of the House budget or included in the final budget.”

He also will look for opportunities to secure the remaining $3 million needed and is willing to lend his help in seeking funding from other sources, such as freight mobility grants.

Hawkins said, “I will not slow down on this project. It is too important.”

Along with Hawkins, fellow 12th District lawmakers Rep. Cary Condotta, Rep. Mike Steele, and eight local officials took part in the March 22 meeting with Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima and Senate Transportation Committee chair, and Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island and House Transportation Committee chair. They were:

  • Keith Goehner, Chelan County commissioner;
  • Eric Pierson, Chelan County engineer;
  • Jeff Wilkens, executive director, Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council;
  • Jeff Gomes, mayor of Cashmere;
  • Paul Nelson, Cashmere School District board of directors (and Chelan County deputy sheriff);
  • JC Baldwin, Port of Chelan County commissioner;
  • Pat Jones, executive director, Port of Chelan County; and
  • Drew Dalgetty, general manager, Crunch Pak.