Businesses worried about plans for Road 68 in Pasco

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMay 22, 2013 

Road 68 Pasco Aerial 13

Road 68 in Pasco.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Those who attended two Wednesday meetings about upcoming Pasco road projects expressed concern about what they could mean for their businesses.

The meeting about Road 68, which started an hour and 45 minutes before the meeting to review Oregon Avenue plans, gave residents a last chance to see designs for the road before it goes out for bid.

The $1.2 million project, paid for primarily with federal grants, will put a raised concrete median with six new left turn lanes along a 3,000-foot long stretch of Road 68.

The project, which will require a 13.5 percent match from the city, also will include six new turn lanes on a 3,900-foot long stretch of Burden Boulevard, which intersects with Road 68 just north of Interstate 182. It also will add the city's first modern coordinated traffic signals that are intended to better move traffic and make way for emergency vehicles.

Randy Barnes, who recently opened a UPS Store in a shopping center southeast of the intersection of Road 68 and Sandifur Parkway, said his business at the north end of the project could suffer because the ability to turn left would be cut off. And he's concerned a narrow road would prevent U-turns at the intersection.

"We're doing well, but I'm afraid that if we don't have direct access for 80 percent of our customers, we're going to have a problem," he said.

Barnes said construction on the median near his business should be put off because it isn't as busy as the southern end of the project.

But Pasco Public Works Director Ahmad Qayoumi said Road 68 traffic is rapidly increasing. Some 50,000 vehicles travel the road a day, compared to 40,000 when he started on the job in October 2010, making it the busiest street in Pasco. And with more development likely, traffic is expected to reach 65,000 vehicles a day within five years.

The Road 68 project is expected to go out for bid by the end of July with construction taking place this fall, Qayoumi said.

The city is still in the $426,000 design phase of the Oregon Avenue project, which isn't expected to begin until late next year.

Qayoumi said the $3.5 million project will be done in three phases, with the first widening the road between I-182 and A Street. The second phase will widen the street to Ainsworth Street, with a final phase creating a "gateway" intersection at Oregon Avenue and Ainsworth, with either a traffic signal or landscaped roundabout.

"You're entering the area for both the Port (of Pasco) and the city," Qayoumi said.

While the city is eliminating a center turn lane -- sometimes called "suicide lanes" at Road 68 -- it plans to build one on Oregon Avenue.

Qayoumi said the lane makes more sense on Oregon Avenue, which sees between 5,000 vehicles per day on the south end to 15,000 on the north end, and now has four lanes divided only by a double yellow line.

The improvements in the industrial area, heavily traveled by trucks, also will include sidewalks, street lights and landscaping. In addition, the parking lots that open directly onto the street will be consolidated into fewer driveways.

By reducing the 80 driveways now on the street, Mark Brower, transportation engineer with consultant CH2M Hill, said several accidents a year can be eliminated on Oregon Avenue. In five years, the street has seen 170 traffic accidents, resulting in 91 injuries and two deaths.

"Even if we reduce a small amount of the driveways, we'll be able to have a measurable safety impact," he said.

Each of Wednesday's meetings was attended by four people. That included Michael Sutley, who lives off Road 68 and is vice president for Oxarc on Oregon Avenue. He attended both meetings.

Sutley said the planned improvements on Oregon Avenue will remove eight parking spaces used by Oxarc customers.

"We've been aggressively expanding and consolidating our Tri-Cities operations here in Pasco," Sutley said. "Parking comes at a premium."

Qayoumi said the city is seeking federal funding and grants to pay for the Oregon Avenue improvements. If money is still needed, a local improvement district, where business owners along the road pay for the upgrades, could be created.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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