Pasco council approves spending on roads

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMay 20, 2013 

The Pasco City Council voted 4-2 on Monday to spend $1.68 million in mostly federal funds on a combination project that will pay for its annual street overlays program, as well as improvements along Fourth Avenue from Court Street north to Interstate 182.

The contract with Granite Construction Inc. of Pasco came in above the engineer's estimate of $1.65 million.

But City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the city twice put the Fourth Avenue project out for bid on its own -- in July 2012 and February of this year -- and both times the bids came back even more out of line with the estimates.

So, after getting advice from the Washington State Department of Transportation, the city decided to package the Fourth Avenue project with its annual overlays, where new asphalt is placed on city roads to improve their conditions, something each city street gets at least once every 15 years.

"We decided to bite the bullet," Crutchfield said.

The Fourth Avenue project, which costs $646,149 of the combined bid, includes new landscaping and disabled-accessible sidewalks in the corridor.

Councilman Bob Hoffmann, who voted against the measure along with Councilman Tom Larsen, said that while he feels the overlay program provides savings, he couldn't support the item because of concerns about Fourth Avenue. The project will reduce parking for an animal hospital along the street, he added.

"Why spend $600,000, when what we have looks great?" he said after the meeting. "The small benefit of beautification would come at the cost of the vet clinic, which is an important member of the community."

Help also could be coming for Pasco drivers tired of finally getting the green light at an intersection, only to get another red light at the next block.

The city council approved paying Kittelson & Associates of Portland $30,000 for consulting work on replacing traffic signals with controllers that can communicate with each other to allow for better traffic flow. The lights have sensors that can read when traffic is moving, Crutchfield said.

"This is part of a larger effort," Crutchfield said. "We bought old technology years ago, and it's just worn out."

The study is funded mostly with federal gas tax money. Crutchfield hopes to get more federal money next year so the city can start the process of replacing the traffic lights, some of which are up to 40 years old.

Larsen had expressed concerns over the sensors "spying" on drivers at last week's council workshop meeting. Crutchfield countered that the sensors only read that something is moving on the road. They cannot identify the vehicles that are traveling, much less who is in them.

The traffic light study passed unanimously as part of the consent agenda, when several items are approved at once.

Mayor Matt Watkins didn't attend the meeting because of an unexpected travel delay, Crutchfield said.

Also Monday, the council:

w Allowed Franklin County to use a portion of its right-of-way along Fifth Avenue. The county discovered that its jail expansion would encroach on city right-of-way by 5 inches.

w Named Jennifer Martinez to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

w Appointed Malin Bergstrom and reappointed Devi Tate to the Historic Preservation Committee.

w Hired Murray Smith and Associates of Spokane to complete a water resources plan for $81,465, using city water and irrigation funds. Crutchfield said the plan will provide a foundation for the city to deal with its limited drinking water rights in the future, as well as how to handle the growing demand for irrigated water in the city.

w Approved a contract with Ray Poland and Sons Inc. of Kennewick for improvements to the railroad crossing at A Street and First Avenue. The $48,023 project involves widening First Avenue and placing concrete medians on both streets.

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