A steering committee is expected today to determine the three best places to build a new bridge across the Columbia River.
The Columbia River Crossing Study Steering Committee members attending a Wednesday public meeting at Chiawana High School in Pasco heard as many pros as cons about the bridge crossing plan from the approximately 50 who attended.
The steering committee, which is made up of representatives from Benton and Franklin counties; the cities of Kennewick, Richland and Pasco and the ports of Pasco and Benton; is trying to determine the best solution for relieving congestion on the blue bridge, improving connections between the counties and cities and enhancing Tri-City economic growth.
Al King, senior project manager with the consulting firm of H. W. Lochner of Lacey, which is helping the steering committee, along with JUB Engineers of Kennewick, laid out a detailed analysis of the four alternatives now under consideration.
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The steering committee used the results from an online survey done in April and another done during the Benton Franklin Fair in August to identify the four sites from the 10 initially considered. More than 1,800 responses were submitted.
The crossing sites are:
* From North Richland area to Franklin County using Sagemoor Road.
* Between Richland/Kennewick and Pasco using Columbia Center Boulevard and Road 100.
* Between Kennewick and Pasco using Edison Street and Road 68.
* A new bridge adjacent to the Highway 395 blue bridge between Kennewick and Pasco.
Beverly Matthews of Pasco believes the additional bridge is needed.
"Progress is always a good thing. I live in Pasco at Road 76 and Argent Street and feel having the bridge connect Edison Street and Road 68 as positive," she said. "If it does come through, if my property is in the way, I'll just move on.
"In the long run, it's a good deal. The ... options all have good points with one exception, I'd drop the Sagemoor Road," Matthews said.
Cheryl Olberding, who lives on Road 72 in Pasco, agreed, though she said she would rather not look out her windows right at a bridge.
"Whatever decision is made, there's always going to be someone who's unhappy," she said.
A question raised during the public comment portion of the meeting was whether a second span adjacent to the blue bridge would affect all of the recent work done with the double roundabouts and new on and offramps.
King said some would remain, others would be modified.
Another person pointed out that Edison Street in Kennewick is crossed by two sets of railroad tracks and wondered how the trains would affect highway traffic.
Lloyd Eakin of Kennewick expressed concern that any of the proposed sites would simply be moving traffic congestion from one place to another and would send truck traffic through residential areas.
The goal of the steering committee is to narrow down the four possibilities to the three best alternatives, which is what members will do beginning at 9:15 a.m. today at the Benton PUD auditorium, 2721 West 10th Ave., in Kennewick.
The group's recommendations then will go to the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments Board for consideration.
Then comes the long process of environmental analysis, fundraising and the final design of the bridge itself.
"With the economic situation right now, money won't be available anytime soon. It may be as long as 2032 before a single vehicle crosses the new bridge," King said. "Construction alone will take two years minimum."
That, plus forecasting where future development in the Tri-Cities will be some 20 years from now makes long-term planning a nightmare, not a dream, he said.
"My crystal ball isn't just cracked, it's broken," King said.
King said there will be future opportunities for public comment.
"You're not just building a bridge. You also have to consider what it takes to make the bridge functional. There needs to be improvements to the corridor leading to and from it too," King said.
For more information on the project go to www.crcstc.com where you'll find links to maps of the original 10 alternatives, with advantages and disadvantages.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org