The Richland City Council approved a six-year transportation improvement program Tuesday evening, despite one councilman’s opposition to the inclusion of two controversial projects.
Councilman Terry Christensen said he was disappointed the city hasn’t done more outreach on a proposed extension of Rachel Road between Steptoe Street and Leslie Road before again including it in the state-mandated plan, which must be updated every year.
The road would be located near the 132-acre Clearwater Creek subdivision. The subdivision stirred controversy last year because of its proximity to the Amon Creek Nature Preserve.
“There was a lot of the community that was very upset, and I do not think their concerns were ever close to met,” said Christensen, who had the approval of the plan pulled for discussion from the consent agenda, where several items are approved at once.
Being included in the transportation program doesn’t mean an item is approved, designed or budgeted, but Christensen said it gives the impression that it is imminent.
The Kennewick School District plans to build a school in the Coldwater Creek area, and may decide to do so early next year, Superintendent Dave Bond told the council.
“We need connectivity from Leslie to the Coldwater Creek property,” he said.
But other councilmembers agreed with staff that much work needs to be done. City Manager Cindy Johnson said outreach on Rachel Road is to be part of a study that isn’t expected to be done until early 2016.
Christensen also opposed including proposed improvements to George Washington Way near the Interstate 182 interchange in the plan. He said the city could have a Duportail Street bridge built over the Yakima River by the time George Washington Way is addressed, which could lessen traffic in the area.
“I don’t think I would support any of the three options at this point,” Christensen said of two proposals involving a new split T intersection 500 feet south of the existing intersection with Aaron Drive, or a proposal to widen George Washington Way.
Speakers at the meeting questioned whether the George Washington Way improvements are needed, saying staggering times when workers at Hanford and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory get off work would be just as helpful.
But the transportation plan passed 4-1. Councilmembers Sandra Kent and Brad Anderson did not attend the meeting.
The improvements could still be years off, because money is not available, Councilman Bob Thompson said.
“I look at this as a planning document,” he said.