'It’s truly the gateway': Tremont Street project transforms Port Orchard

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- There’s a new gateway leading people right to Port Orchard.

The $21 million Tremont Street expansion project that's been in the making for more than a decade is complete.

Tremont Street is the main route, getting people to the heart of downtown Port Orchard. Now, there are wider roads, new sidewalks, and bike lanes.

Both drivers and business owners in the area say it’s a welcomed change to the waterfront community.

Joanna Aquino is the owner of the Cup of Jo coffee stand just off Tremont Street. She says there have been noticeable differences since the road reopened in August.

“I’ve noticed happier customers, and more customers, too,” Aquino explained.

In addition to improved travel times, the project also brings the roadway up to current standards, and city leaders say the changes will improve safety as well.

“When you look at it, it’s truly the gateway into our community,” said Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu.

But the road to getting here wasn’t smooth sailing.

Mayor Putaansuu says back in 2007, the city accepted $3 million of federal transportation funds to redesign Tremont Street. However, with the great recession around the corner the project got stalled—and the money came with stipulations.

“When I took office, we were faced with roughly 2 years out to deliver on that project or we will have to pay back $3 million we didn’t have; we already spent it,” Mayor Putaansuu told us.

With the road project expected to drastically cut down travel times and bring new business right to Port Orchard, Mayor Putaansuu says it became his top priority.

“Previously we had a two-lane road with traffic lights,” said Mayor Putaansuu.

Drivers say before the project was complete there were road closures and plenty of traffic headaches to go along with the construction.

“It was a nightmare,” said Mike Griffin, a Port Orchard resident. “Now, it seems to be running pretty smoothly.”

As drivers get acclimated to the new way to get around town, for business owners like Joanna Aquino the hope is that the transformed Tremont Street brings more customers to her waterfront community.

“It’s a beautiful city,” Aquino said. “It’s totally underappreciated and under the radar. It’s our hidden gem.”