Kennewick School District says Rachel Road extension vital

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMay 27, 2014 

The Kennewick School District says the extension of Rachel Road to the Clearwater Creek development is key to its interest in a future elementary school within the proposed subdivision, and the district likely would consider other elementary sites if the extension is dropped.

"It would be highly probable that this school site would include the Rancho Reata neighborhood. It would be challenging to transport students to this site without Rachel Road access," wrote Doug Carl, the school district's director of capital projects, in a recent letter to Richland officials.

In a separate letter, Superintendent Dave Bond added that it's critical to the district "that we have multiple access roads to an elementary site, as an elementary school is accessed constantly by parents, staff and school transportation vehicles."

"We have learned from past experience that building elementary schools where vehicle access is poor is a bad idea, and we don't intend to do that," Bond wrote in his letter.

Meanwhile, Richland officials continue to hear from community members who oppose extending the road because of concerns about harm to the Amon Creek Natural Preserve. The extension most likely would cross the preserve, and dozens have spoken at public meetings and written to city officials in recent weeks asking it be scuttled.

In a May 21 letter to the city, resident J. Christopher Doran said that Richland's mission statement notes it is responsible for enhancing favorable quality of life and protecting the natural environment. "How could anyone take that seriously if the Rachel Road extension were to be approved? What kind of image of Richland would this project?" he wrote.

Some resolution appears on the horizon.

The city's six-year Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, which includes the extension of Rachel from Leslie Road to Steptoe Street, is in the midst of being updated. The city planning commission is set to discuss the TIP at a session tonight, and charged with making a recommendation to the city council.

The city's parks and recreation commission already has weighed in, recommending approval of the plan without the Rachel Road extension.

The city council is expected to take up the TIP during a meeting in mid-June.

The Clearwater Creek project is to sit on more than 100 acres south of Claybell Community Park between Steptoe Street and Leslie Road. The Amon preserve is west of the planned subdivision.

City officials have said a street between Leslie and Steptoe is needed to accommodate traffic in the growing area, which doesn't have many east-west connections. Though it's called the Rachel Road extension in the TIP, they've said the specific route of the road hasn't been decided.

"The actual placement of the connection and implementation of the connection is still subject to a lot of evaluation," said Pete Rogalsky, the city's public works director, on Tuesday.

Council members during a workshop Tuesday seemed interested in a study that would look further into the piece of the connection between Leslie and Clearwater Creek -- the part that likely would cross the preserve. The council likely will consider moving ahead with the study soon.

The subdivision, if approved, would have 320 residential lots. It falls in the Kennewick School District's boundaries, though it's in Richland.

-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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