A planned industrial development will have better access after the Pasco City Council approved using most of a $3.2 million state grant to build a new rail line on Monday evening.
The 11,200-foot line will allow rail service for the planned Heritage Industrial Center, as well as the existing Big Pasco Industrial Center, Mayor Matt Watkins said.
Council approved a $2.91 million contract with Premier Excavation Inc. of Pasco by a 7-0 vote. The contract was below the city engineer's estimate of $3.4 million.
Rail access will allow the complex to attract heavy industrial development, which allows the city to diversify its tax base, Watkins said. The city has been working with the State Department of Commerce on the project for several years.
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"This is a prime example of 'You build it, they will come,' " Watkins said. "I think there is some excellent rail access."
Pasco Public Works director Ahmad Qayoumi said the rail line will take about a year to complete.
Council also unanimously approved using $234,053 in city utility funds to complete a water line "loop" near Commercial Avenue, U.S Highway 12 and Lewis Street. Qayoumi said this will allow residents to maintain service in case a water line is blocked, a situation where some residents now have their water cut off. The contract with Sharpe & Preszler Construction of Kennewick was below an engineer's estimate of $478,692.
Qayoumi said the project should be finished by June.
In a 4-3 decision, the council voted not to vacate a small piece of property between the end of West Washington Street and railroad tracks not far from the railroad bridge.
While the vote followed a staff recommendation not to vacate the property, swing vote Councilman Tom Larsen said he might look at bringing the item back up at council's May 6 meeting, and changing his vote to allow giving the property over to the surrounding landowner.
"I think we'd better look at the situation and see what needs to be done," Larsen said after the meeting.
Watkins said keeping the land is part of the long-range plan for the Port of Pasco area.
But Councilman Al Yenney said the city should work with the owner for a land swap for the property -- considered useless because it is located next to a railroad track that would be difficult to extend Washington Street across. He added that it doesn't make sense to keep the property to stay in line with a plan that might not go into effect for years.
"It needs to be vacated, it has no use," he said.