Franklin County might not have quite enough federal dollars to build the first two miles of Peterson Road in its effort to provide legal public access to the Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area.
Engineers' estimates place the project at up to $155,500 more than the $716,500 from the federal Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, for the project.
Despite the cost difference, the road project still is moving along. Franklin County commissioners agreed Thursday to set an Aug. 10 public hearing to declare Peterson Road a county road, subject to construction and right-of-way agreements. That's the next step needed to complete the project.
"I would still like to go to construction this year," said Tim Fife, county public works director and engineer.
BLM, which owns Juniper Dunes, is contracting with Franklin County to buy and improve the first two miles of the road. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., helped secure the federal money for the project.
Juniper Dunes, with about 20,000 acres of public land, has been a popular recreation area for Tri-City residents since the 1960s, according to BLM's management plan for the area.
Although it became a wilderness area in 1984, there never has been public access to it. Part of it is open to off-road vehicles, and part of it is wilderness that is closed to all vehicles.
Making the first two miles of Peterson Road public will help, but it won't be enough to provide full public access.
It does provide public access from the Pasco-Kahlotus road to the first block of land owned by BLM, according to the county engineer's report.
But there are two more miles before the road reaches the Juniper Dunes boundary, and those miles cross a mix of public and private land.
The construction of a paved road for the first two miles on Peterson Road will likely eat up all of the federal money for the project, Fife said.
He intends to bring some funding ideas for the remainder to commissioners at a later date.
The total project is estimated to cost between $842,000 and $872,000. The cost of the project still is up in the air in terms of right of way, Fife said.
Negotiations still need to be completed with one landowner before the cost is determined.
The project would include paving the first 2.18 miles using chip seal, according to the engineer's report.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com