Ben Franklin Transit, Road 68 safety issues among projects Tri-Cities hopes will get federal funding

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldNovember 19, 2013 

Tri-City officials hope to replace Ben Franklin Transit's aging fleet and address congestion and safety issues on Pasco's Road 68 as part of their Christmas wish lists.

About 37 Tri-City area transportation projects are among more than 1,000 statewide projects in line for $1.8 billion in federal funding during the next four years, according to Washington state's draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program released Tuesday.

Those Benton and Franklin county projects seek $59.4 million in federal dollars and $2.8 million from the state, according to the draft plan.

Inclusion in the 2014-17 plan doesn't guarantee money for the projects, especially considering the cloud of uncertainty hovering over federal government spending. But being in the plan is essential to even have a shot at federal funding, officials say.

Still, Kathy McMullen, Ben Franklin Transit's service development manager, said, "We are hopeful that we will get much of that money."

The local transit agency has asked for about $36.9 million in the next four years, which would help replace up to 210 vehicles, along with upgrades, improved security and operating funds.

The agency's priority is replacing its buses and vanpool and Dial-A-Ride vehicles in the next six years, McMullen said. While Ben Franklin Transit has replaced older vehicles with used vehicles from other transit agencies, the use of older vehicles means higher maintenance costs.

And some of the agency's vehicles have more than 300,000 miles on them, she said.

McMullen hopes that in 2016, Ben Franklin Transit will buy electric buses to save fuel. The agency has a prototype electric bus in service.

The agency also plans to update the transit centers to make them more pedestrian-friendly and to increase security by adding cameras on buses and at Park-N-Rides, she said.

In Pasco, officials are asking for about $2 million in federal dollars over the next four years, according to the draft plan. The majority of the money would go toward traffic signal improvements throughout the city.

But the money would also help in planning to add a right-hand turn on southbound Road 68 to westbound Interstate 182, said Ahmad Qayoumi, Pasco's public works director.

Adding the turn lane would help the flow of traffic and should decrease the amount of weaving that occurs between Burden Boulevard and the interchange, he said. Construction will hopefully begin next year.

The city also hopes for on and off ramps on I-182 at Road 52 and a westbound off-ramp at Road 44 to address current and future needs in the Road 68 area.

"We need to be proactive," Qayoumi said.

A new interchange may be years in the future, he said. The city may end up needing both I-182 ramps on roads 52 and 44.

The Road 68 interchange will also have pavement resurfacing in 2016, with some sign and striping restoration, according to the draft plan. Washington State Department of Transportation officials plan to receive about $1.6 million in federal funding for the project.

Most of the $2.1 million in federal money that Kennewick officials hope for would go to right of way and construction of access and safety improvements on Clearwater Avenue between Highway 395 and Leslie Road next year, according to the plan.

The city is planning the project, which may result in driveway consolidation, intersection improvements and turn pockets, depending on the results of the study. Officials said the federal funding would cover some of the improvements, but others will have to wait for future dollars.

The $4.8 million in federal dollars Richland officials have asked for would be split between four different projects. Those include extending Center Parkway from Gage Boulevard to Tapteal Drive in 2015, buying right of way for the planned Duportail Bridge over the Yakima River next year, designing an interchange to separate Highway 240 and Highway 224 from a railroad crossing in 2017 and helping with right of way purchases and construction to extend Stevens Drive from Wellsian Way to Lee Boulevard in the next two years.

The state is accepting comments on the draft plan until Dec. 17. It can be downloaded at http://1.usa.gov/1dfF9ly. To comment, email nancy.huntley@wsdot.wa.gov or mail Nancy Huntley, P.O. Box 47390, Olympia, WA 98504-7390.

Also planned in Benton and Franklin counties during 2016:

w About $1 million of federal funds to help resurface ramps on Road 100 to and from I-182 and to restore signs and striping.

w About $1.5 million of federal dollars to help resurface Highway 395 between West Kennewick Avenue to the I-182 bridge in Pasco.

w About $4.4 million of federal funding for resurfacing I-82 between I-182 and one mile west of Benton City.

w About $7 million in federal dollars for resurfacing I-82 between the Yakima River bridge near Prosser and Gibbon Road.

w To submit business news, go to bit.ly/bizformtch.

w Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service