Construction begins Tuesday on Columbia Center Boulevard in Kennewick

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldMarch 14, 2014 

A typically busy intersection in front of Columbia Center mall will get a new traffic light as Kennewick's city road crews start a safety improvement project next week on Columbia Center Boulevard.

Construction on the $590,000 project begins Tuesday and includes installing a new traffic signal and new turning lanes into the mall, said John Deskins, the city's traffic engineer. A state grant is paying for the work.

"There will be periodic closures of the inside travel lanes during the project, and for the first two or three weeks the Canal Drive signalized access for northbound drivers will be periodically closed," Deskins said. "We anticipate minimal impacts on traffic, even during rush hour."

The first phase will be the new turning lane into the mall at Canal Drive and Columbia Center Boulevard, which Deskins estimates will take about three weeks.

"The current left turn into the mall from Columbia Center Boulevard is confusing and challenging for motorists," Deskins said. "The new turn lane will be larger and allow better mall access. There have been multiple crashes at that location that will hopefully diminish with the wider access."

During the work, that entrance to the mall will be blocked so motorists are encouraged to use the traffic signal at Quinault Avenue or the entrance at Rio Grande Avenue where there is no traffic light to enter the south end of the mall.

The second phase will be the new traffic light at Rio Grande Avenue, which currently has no light and has caused numerous accidents because of the right of way confusion with cars trying to cross three lanes of traffic, Deskins said.

The new signal will include the street's Rio Grande Avenue name, which up until now was never posted.

The city also plans to install a push-button beacon on Quinault Avenue for pedestrians walking from the Red Lion Hotel to the mall, Deskins added.

Jordan Youngs, the marketing director for the mall, said he doesn't anticipate a disruption in mall business during the construction.

"We've been working with the city on this and even if they have to close one of the entrances to the mall during this project we're confident that normal mall traffic won't change," Youngs said. "There are so many entrances to the mall the flow in an out of our parking area should remain smooth."

Deskins expects the construction will be done at the end of June.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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