The route is set.
Now, the bulk of the money needed for the realignment of the only paved road leading to and from the south end of San Juan Island is in the bag as well.
Lee Taylor, superintendent of San Juan Island National Historical Park, said she was recently notified the Federal Lands Access Program had earmarked up to $5.5 million in federal funds for the realignment and reconstruction of a portion of Cattle Point Road. The federal program is a source of funding specifically intended for local governments that have transportation projects on federal land, such as a national park.
"This is fantastic news, as neither the county staff nor I had a good plan B if this funding source didn't come through," Taylor noted.
Owned and maintained by San Juan Couty, Cattle Point Road weaves through National Parks Service property and remains the only paved access to the neighborhoods of Cape San Juan and Cattle Point Estates, home to about 270 residents. The road realignment project is a partnership between the Federal Highways Administration, National Park Service, Washington Department of Natural Resources and San Juan County, whose public works department will design, engineer and manage the road's realignment.
After nine years of study and review, National Parks, the Federal Highway Administration and Western Federal Lands Highway Division recently identified alternative B of the realignment project's environmental impact statement as the chosen route to protect a 6,000-foot section of road from ongoing erosion. It calls for moving a 4,950-foot section of the road about 300-feet upslope from its present location, which skirts along Mount Finlayson in American Camp. Moving the roadway up the slope is expected to safeguard it from erosion for about 100 years.
Erosion claims about 1-2 inches a year off the bluff on which Cattle Point Road winds along NPS property, and a smaller segment of state DNR land.
The federal access program funds will cover more than 80 percent of the $6 million-plus project. The county is expected to finance the remainder.
Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Everett) has championed the project for nearly a decade.
“This is a big win over a decade in the making,” Larsen said. “With these dollars, we will now make sure that this critical road will be protected from coastal erosion, allowing residents and visitors alike continued access to beautiful Cattle Point. I thank the Department of Transportation for their attention to this project, and congratulate all the leaders in San Juan County who made this happen.”
Taylor said the date if which the money will be available has yet to be determined. Federal officials must craft funding agreements with the state and with the county before federal funds are available.
San Juan County engineer Rachel Dietzman said Public Works allocated $350,000 for the project's design and engineering in this year's transportation improvement plan, and that the project should be "shovel ready" by mid-2014 if all the pieces, namely the $5.5 million grant, fall into place.