Benton County commissioners support Red Mountain road

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldNovember 21, 2012 

Benton County commissioners agreed Tuesday to add their signatures to a letter urging Washington's next governor to make a Red Mountain road project a priority for state funding.

Several other Tri-City leaders, including the mayors of Benton City and West Richland, also are signing the letter to Governor-elect Jay Inslee.

The Red Mountain Transportation Project "would allow and encourage all kinds of economic development," Commissioner Leo Bowman told the Herald. "It's very important for economic development in the Tri-Cities."

The project includes constructing a roundabout at the Benton City exit of Interstate 82 and building a new interchange that will connect West Richland, the Red Mountain Industrial Park and the Red Mountain American Viticulture Area to the highway.

West Richland is the only city between Seattle and the Tri-Cities without direct access to a freeway, according to a draft of the letter included in commissioners' meeting packets.

The project has the potential "to stimulate economic growth providing 2,390 permanent jobs, an annual payroll of over $102 million and annual business and worker spending of over $327 million," it says.

The project is estimated to cost $30 million for both phases, said Troy Suing, an assistant regional administrator for the state Department of Transportation. He said about $2.5 million in state and federal money already is in place, covering some design and right of way acquisition.

Also Tuesday:

w Commissioners approved a mediation agreement with Dan Arnold, one of three public defenders in a contract dispute with the county who reached a settlement in mediation.

Mediation agreements with the other two attorneys -- Scott Johnson and Kevin Holt -- also were on the commissioners' consent agenda Tuesday but were pulled off before the vote.

County Administrator David Sparks said after the meeting that those agreements needed more work.

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