PASCO — Several rural Franklin County roads and intersections will be upgraded starting next year to improve safety using $750,000 in federal grant money.
Tim Fife, county public works director, reported County Road Safety Program grant could cover work on 11 intersections and six roadways and perhaps stretch a bit further.
The grant includes $500,000 for projects on roads that could help prevent run-off-road crashes in areas where there is significant risk and $250,000 to improve intersection safety.
Of the $500,000, about $370,000 is to be used to flatten slopes and add guardrails on Columbia River Road past Selph Landing Road, where there is a deep ditch along the roadway.
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Slopes adjacent to a road that are too steep for a vehicle to travel down without rolling are considered a hazard, Fife said. In those cases, the county will flatten the slope to eliminate the hazard. If that is impractical, then the county will add guardrail.
Fife said the county has received complaints and requests to improve that portion of Columbia River Road.
And $180,000 would go to work on Ringold Road, west of Taylor Flats Road, where plans include flattening slopes and adding guard rails, Fife said.
That will help as traffic on the road likely will increase once the new part of Road 170 is complete, he said.
The county will also add marker posts with reflectors on curves on Road 170 just west of Highway 17, Fife said. There have been issues with people running off the road after the first curve, mostly at night. That project could cost about $5,000.
On Wahluke Road, there is a portion about three miles south of Hollingsworth Road where the drop next to the road is about 300 feet, Fife said. He would like to add guard rail there at an estimated cost of $20,000.
The county also plans to flatten slopes and extend culverts on Sheffield and Langford roads.
The 11 intersections chosen for the $250,000 grant are mostly places where there is a history of drivers failing to stop, Fife said.
The projects include improving sight distance at Argent Road intersections at Road 60 and Road 72 and at Court Street and Road 52 and adding flashing lights and rumble strips to Taylor Flats Road intersections at Alder, Birch and Fir roads, Glade North Road at Elm, Ironwood and Russell roads and Langford Road at Russell and Sheffield roads.
Fife said those projects will likely end up costing less than the $250,000. Any extra money can be added to the projects where there is significant risk of motorists running off the road.
If money is left over after all planned projects are complete, Fife said it could be used to finish flattening slopes on Glade North Road and Taylor Flats Road. Engineering on both those projects is complete, and some work was done using a 2007 grant.
Fife said the list of projects was due to the state government Friday for its review and approval.
In addition to hearing Fife's briefing, county commissioners also learned last week that:
* County employees will be covered by medical insurance from the Washington Counties Insurance Fund for 2011.
The Washington Counties Insurance Pool, which is part of the same organization, is going broke at year's end, so commissioners had to pick a new insurance option.
County Administrator Fred Bowen told commissioners the county didn't have much choice other than the Counties Insurance Fund because of the timing. The change means rates will be 5.7 percent higher in 2011 than the anticipated 24 percent increase.
The county plans to start an insurance committee to look into options for 2012.