Pasco residents ready for Road 68 project

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 6, 2014 

Pasco residents who attended an open house Thursday on the Road 68 project said they're ready for construction to start.

"It's going to help out the traffic situation," said Janet Tyler, one of 16 people to brave the snow for the meeting.

Tyler and Jim Wickman live off Road 44 and use Road 68 to get to Interstate 182. They realize they will need to think of alternate routes once construction starts.

"It's going to take patience on the part of all the drivers," Wickman said.

Work to update traffic signals should begin in late March, city engineer Mike Pawlak said. Construction on new concrete medians on a 3,000-foot-long stretch of Road 68 and 3,600 feet of Burden Boulevard will begin three to four months later and continue for most of the summer.

Contractor Sierra Electric will be paid $1.2 million for the job.

Pawlak assured the crowd that no work will be done over the busy Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day weekends. Most construction will take place during regular business hours, and area property owners will be notified if work is necessary early in the morning, at night or on weekends.

Public works director Ahmad Qayoumi recommends several detours for residents to use to avoid Road 68 during construction. They include reaching Interstate 182 by taking Sandifur Parkway west to Broadmoor Boulevard. Drivers headed to areas south and east should take Sandifur Parkway to Road 36.

They will still be able to use Road 68, as well, but the going may be slow.

"If you do have to go through, we'll keep at least one lane in each direction open," Qayoumi said.

Road 68 is Pasco's busiest city-maintained street, used by 50,000 vehicles a day. Growth in the area is expected to push that to 65,000 in the next few years.

The city has considered the project "high priority" for more than three years, and has held several public meetings at City Hall, Qayoumi said. Adjustments had to be made after both the initial bids came in more than $400,000 over the city's estimate last summer. The city council approved Sierra's bid at its meeting Monday .

When the project is finished, fire trucks and ambulances will be able to preempt traffic signals, changing them remotely from the vehicles. Fire Chief Bob Gear said this is needed because of the concrete medians that will replace the current "suicide lanes," which can be accessed by drivers heading north or south.

"Currently, because the road is not divided, we can go around the lane," Gear said. "They needed new signals anyway, so the traffic preemption seems to be part of that."

Signal preemption is common in Kennewick and Richland, but the signals on Road 68 will be the first of their kind in Pasco, Gear said.

The crosswalks at Road 68 and Wrigley Drive will also feature pedestrian signals that count down, allowing people to know how much time they have to cross the street, Qayoumi said.

The city hopes to start construction on Road 68 between Burden Boulevard and I-182 next year, Qayoumi said. The city has most of the money, between $400,000 and $500,000, to build dual right-turn lanes from Road 68 southbound onto the westbound freeway, but still needs state and federal approval.

The city's long-range plans call for extending the upgrades along Road 68 south to Argent Road, Pawlak said.

"There's several things that need to be worked out with the property owners and with the state," he said.

The city also looks to eventually get money to pay for an off ramp from I-182 onto Road 44 and on and off ramps at Road 52. Qayoumi said these would relieve traffic on Road 68.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543;; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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