Franklin County is going ahead with a plan for construction of an access road to a popular recreation area, even though it might not get the majority of the money for the project until 2016.
County commissioners voted 3-0 on Wednesday to authorize spending $303,750 to start plans to build a road connecting the Juniper Dunes Recreation Area with the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway. The county expects to be reimbursed as part of a $650,000 grant pledged by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The Federal Highway Administration announced last month that Juniper Dunes would get money for an access road as part of its Washington Federal Lands Access Program, but not until 2016. County engineer Matt Rasmussen said that by doing the work now, the county can get right of way issues and planning done.
"When 2016 comes around, we'll be ready to go to construction," he said.
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A potential hitch in the plan is that Congress still has to reauthorize its transportation program before 2016.
"Everything I've been reading indicates they will extend the current program," Rasmussen said.
Franklin County had applied for $1.06 million from the federal program to build a new road to Juniper Dunes, a Bureau of Land Management site that consists of 19,600 acres. About 3,920 acres is open to off-road vehicles. It is also popular for hiking, horseback riding, hunting and other activities.
The only way to reach Juniper Dunes now is on Peterson Road, but county officials said the road is rough, has poor drainage and has areas where it is difficult to see other drivers. It also has a large "keep out" sign near its entrance.
-- Commissioners voted to send a letter in support of Greater Columbia Behavioral Health's application to seek state money to develop two crisis centers for people dealing with mental illness. Benton and Franklin counties would commit up to $1.7 million total for the project, with local matching money coming from the bicounty human service's department's reserve funds. Benton commissioners expressed support for the project at their Tuesday meeting.
-- Awarded a $136,596 contract for a water line extension in Basin City to C&E Trenching of Pasco.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom