Pasco residents can learn more about planned improvements in the Road 68 corridor at a meeting Thursday as the city looks toward the next round of construction on its busiest street.
Workers have been doing "behind the scenes" work to improve traffic signals so they can be pre-empted to make way for emergency vehicles, said Ahmad Qayoumi, the city's public works director. Work is scheduled to start in late July on removing the center lanes and replacing them with a concrete median, including turn lanes. It is expected to finish in July.
That project will cover a 3,000-foot stretch of Burden Boulevard east of Road 68 and 3,000 feet of Road 68 from Burden Boulevard north to Sandifur Parkway. Between 48,000 and 50,000 drivers a day pass through the Road 68-Burden Boulevard interchange.
The city is paying Sierra Electric of Pasco $1.2 million for that phase of Road 68 improvements.
The city council is expected to vote next week on a contract to begin studying the next phase of Road 68 improvements, which will cover the area from Burden Boulevard south to Interstate 182.
The $280,000 contract with Portland-based Kittelson & Associates will pay for an environmental review, traffic models and the approval process with the Washington State Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.
City Manager Gary Crutchfield said WSDOT has given a go ahead to start the process of planning the dual turn lanes. The project has been slowed by the need to get approval from both state and federal transportation agencies, which has led to massive amounts of paperwork.
"It's really a shame that it's taken this long," he said. "We've got two layers of bureaucracy instead of just one."
The work also will include improvements designed to ease traffic congestion from the interstate to Road 68.
Qayoumi said up to three right turn lanes from westbound I-182 to northbound Road 68 will be built . The left lane will be for drivers turning left on Sandifur Parkway to get to Walmart, the center lane will be for people continuing on Road 68 and the right lane will help people headed toward the TRAC facility area.
Drivers now have to weave across Road 68 to make turns, Qayoumi said.
"That's kind of a bottleneck," he said.
Design of the Road 68 project south of Burden Boulevard is expected to be finished in spring 2015, with construction in the summer and fall.
The price of the project south of Burden Boulevard will be estimated as part of the study. Qayoumi said the work will be federally funded.
Pasco has other changes planned to help ease congestion around Road 68, including completing Powerline Road between Road 68 west to Road 100 and completing Wrigley Drive near Fairchild Cinemas. Qayoumi said the city plans to start those projects next year.
Tonight's meeting on Road 68 is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 525 N. Third Ave.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom