The clock is ticking on Richland’s dream of constructing the Duportail Bridge in time for a 2020 opening.
Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky said last week that the city will devote 2016 to raising the balance of the money it needs to build the $37 million project.
The city is still about $17 million short. The Legislature agreed to set aside $20 million for the bridge when it approved a $16 billion transportation package in 2015.
Ideally, Rogalsky said, construction will occur during the 2018 and 2019 summer seasons, when construction is allowed in the Yakima River basin.
Timing is critical. State funds will be available in the 2017-19 biennium. If the city isn’t ready, the $20 million could shift to another budget cycle or even go away.
“It’s incumbent on us to do everything we can to go to the Legislature and say ‘We’ve done our part. We’re ready to go,’ ” Rogalsky said.
In a bit of good news, Rogalsky told the city council on Tuesday that the original estimate of $38.5 million dropped slightly to $37 million when engineers revisited the design.
Changes include a new footing system that reduces the need to drive piles for a temporary construction bridge during the two years of work.
Richland considers Duportail Bridge its top civic priority and a key economic development initiative for the region, and the Legislature apparently agreed with the economic and environmental arguments.
The bridge will link the Queensgate area to the rest of Richland. It is intended to reduce congestion, trim commute times, boost emergency response times and bolster commercial activity along its entire route.
Likely funding sources include the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board and an allocation from the regional Council of Governments.
Richland will reapply for federal Transportation Improvement Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER grants. But it’s not pinning its hopes on the highly competitive program. In 2014, the city unsuccessfully applied for $28 million from the TIGER program. This time it will ask for about $8 million, a more moderate figure Rogalsky said is more likely to win approval.
Council members were surprised that the city wouldn’t ask for a larger sum. But Rogalsky said the TIGER program receives 10 times more applications than it can fund and that it’s unreasonable to think the city won’t have to pay a share of the cost.
“I’m pretty sensitive to not asking our way out of the game,” he said.
He estimates Richland’s share of the bridge cost will fall between $4 million and $8 million. That depends on its success securing state and federal grants. The city would issue general obligation bonds to foot its share.
In other Duportail-related progress, the city is moving on 11 of the 17 right-of-way acquisitions it needs to complete and is in discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers, Port of Benton, Columbia Irrigation District and others who own properties that will be under the bridge.
The city hopes to award a construction contract in November 2017 and debut the new stretch in July 2020.