Senate bills give Belfair Bypass new name, boost local projects, Sheldon says

OLYMPIA – The Belfair Bypass gets a new name – the “SR3 Freight Corridor” – under a transportation budget passed by the Senate last week.

At the same time, Senate budget bills provide funding for the State Patrol Academy at Shelton and a new teen center at Belfair.

The projects are included in supplemental transportation and public-works budgets passed by the Senate Feb. 23. The bills now are being considered in the House. Lawmakers this year are passing supplemental budgets making modest changes to the 2017-19 spending plans they approved during their 2017 session.

Under the Senate transportation budget, the long-planned $67 million Belfair Bypass will get a new name that reflects its importance to traffic mobility in the region. Designation as a “corridor” will boost future efforts to improve State Highway 3, the highway route between Shelton and Bremerton, Sheldon said.

“A name means plenty when you are describing worthy projects,” Sheldon explained. “Highway 3 improvements should not be seen as a purely local issue. The highway is of critical importance to anyone who travels between Shelton and Bremerton, the southern gateway to the Kitsap Peninsula.”

Importance of the route was underscored in December, when an Amtrak derailment closed Interstate 5 for several days. North-south traffic was forced to crawl along Highway 507, through Yelm, or through Shelton on Highway 3.

The Legislature’s 2015 transportation package committed the Legislature to a plan that will complete the Belfair Bypass by the 2023-25 biennium. Funding for the project continues unchanged, with $10.2 million to be spent on construction in 2019-21.

The capital budget, SB 6095, provides $412,000 for the North Mason Teen Center, helping pay for renovation of the former North Mason School District headquarters building in Belfair. The project will add a commercial kitchen, upgrade technology, and pay for safety improvements and upgrades. The center will be operated by the Boys and Girls Club of South Puget Sound.

The transportation budget, SB 6106, also provides a total $3.4 million for renovation of the State Patrol Academy at Shelton. Money will pay for replacement of the academy’s HVAC system, its “training tank,” used to teach water safety and underwater vehicle extraction techniques, and its “skid pan,” essentially a parking lot filled with standing water that is used for driver training under inclement conditions.

Another transportation project funded by the new Senate budget is a new roundabout for the city of Shelton, at 1st and Alder streets. The budget provides $800,000 for the project.