Comments still being taken Duportail Street bridge project

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMarch 24, 2013 

The long-planned Duportail Street bridge project, which would improve connectivity between central and south Richland, still needs millions of dollars.

But the environmental review process is moving along. A public hearing on a draft environmental assessment drew about 35 people last week. The public still can comment on the document, which will be used to determine whether additional environmental review is needed under state and federal law.

The comment period closes April 3.

The project includes building a new four-lane bridge over the Yakima River and making some road and intersection improvements. It also involves replacing the water main that serves south Richland with a new main that's attached to the bridge.

That will provide a more secure water supply for that part of the city of roughly 49,000 people, said Jeff Peters, Richland's transportation and development manager.

The estimated cost of the bridge project is $35 million. Peters said $1.25 million has been secured for right-of-way purchase and about $300,000 for preliminary engineering -- mostly federal funds, along with some city dollars.

To obtain the rest, "the city has been working on strategies. We've been talking to the Legislature and our representatives," Peters said. "(The project's price tag) is big enough that the city won't be able to fund it on its own; it's going to take federal money and state participation."

One city councilman visited state lawmakers in Olympia earlier this month to raise the project's profile. Brad Anderson said he talked about the long-planned bridge, as well as the Lewis Street overpass project in Pasco and work in Kennewick's Southridge area.

Anderson said he's not anxious to see gas prices rise. But if a state transportation funding package including a gas-tax increase happens, he'd want "something to come back here." Duportail, Lewis Street and Southridge projects would have an immediate impact -- more so than the Red Mountain interchange project that's gotten attention from state lawmakers, he added. Money for Red Mountain was included in a proposed transportation package unveiled last month.

The Red Mountain project involves building a roundabout at the Benton City exit of Interstate 82 and a new interchange connecting West Richland and the Red Mountain area to the highway.

Proponents say Red Mountain would stimulate economic development and tourism.

Anderson described the Olympia visit as encouraging. The Duportail Street bridge project would help ease traffic and improve connectivity in the city. "It's a huge benefit on many levels," he said.

The environmental assessment is available at the city library, City Hall and www.ci.richland.wa.us/duportailbridge.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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