Monday, May 16, 2011

Real Estate and Relocation along I-405...

If you have ever have had to move or have bought or sold a house, you know how demanding it can be. Now imagine having to do this on a larger scale - in multiples.

On the heels of the Legislature passing the 2003 and 2005 gas taxes, we embarked on a journey to provide relief to commuters who live on the eastside of Lake Washington. Our goal, as tasked by the legislature: to enhance I-405 to meet the needs of the ever-growing population.

If you’ve ever driven I-405, you can see for yourself how complex this project is. There just isn’t much room to make necessary changes as you approach SR 520 going northbound through Bellevue. In order to make those changes, we needed to purchase some adjoining properties and help relocate those businesses or individuals. As with any project, we follow a long and diligent process to make sure that the decisions we make provide the most value to you, the taxpayer, fairness to affected property owners and provide the most relief for safety and congestion to the commuter.

Just like buying a house, purchasing real estate and helping folks relocate can be quite a challenge.
We have established rules that we follow to be good stewards. I am sure you can understand how this could be an emotional process for some while for others it creates an opportunity that they may not otherwise have had.

On the I-405, corridor, 155 business and residential relocations were needed to improve this vital roadway. We used a cost-effective consultant to visit each business or property owner individually to provide a relocation plan. Washington’s Relocation Assistance program includes an appeal process for those needing to relocate. For this corridor project, only nine individuals went on to the next step of disagreement (approximately 6%). One individual out of that nine went on to pursue the entire appeals process.

Whenever you‘re dealing in real estate and relocation, there are times when a party is looking for a higher number. To ensure impartiality, we took the next step and sent this appeal to a third party, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

In 2009, the FHWA agreed with the decision on compensation that we provided the individual. They provided good recommendations in the consultant oversight process. We immediately added the FHWA recommendations to the state’s Relocation Assistance program in order to refine and clarify the process. During this appeal, the process we followed met the approval of the FHWA and two separate judges. The property owner’s claim was recently dismissed in April of 2011.

Following the direction we are provided, ensuring the process works for the property owners, businesses and individuals we work with, and at the same time, being good stewards of taxpayer dollars is never easy. When a third party reviews and confirms that you have done it right, it really helps to tell the story.

We are committed to on time and on budget project delivery. For more information on this project:
www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/i405/NE8thtoSR520/

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