The Hermiston City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night approving an intergovernmental agreement with the state transportation department that will ultimately fund up to $4.5 million in upgrades to North First Place.
It wasn’t a tough decision.
“Any time the state wants to give us $4.5 million, we’ll take it,” said Mayor Dave Drotzmann.
The funding is part of the 2017 state transportation package which provided money for dozens of projects around the state. Hermiston presented up to $39 million in potential street improvement projects, including clearing congestion near the high school and safety center. The $4.5 million funding, however, specifies that the money can only be spent on upgrades to North First Place between Hermiston Avenue and Geer Road. The city, however, can determine what improvements will be made along North First Place.
But there is a catch – the funding won’t be available until Fiscal Year 2022-23. Original plans for North First Place upgrades included reconstruction of the street north of Hermiston Avenue, widening it, adding a sidewalk to the western side, and adding an off-street pedestrian path on the east side. The estimate for that work was $3.9 million in 2015. Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said inflation will mean that project will likely cost more by the time the funding comes through. Morgan said the city will almost certainly have to reconsider the scope of the project.
Another project along North First Place that will strongly be considered is an expanded turn signal at the intersection of Elm Avenue and North First Place. As it is now, there is only one lane in either direction, which can cause a backup of traffic if someone is looking to turn left from North First onto Elm.
Morgan said when the work is done, the city would have to pay any amount over $4.5 million. If the improvements cost less than $4.5 million, anything left over goes back to the state.