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Queensgate would win big with Duportail Bridge construction

City officials say the Duportail Bridge project is their top transportation priority since the state recently provided $20 million toward the project. The bridge will provide a direct link for residents, eliminating their need for travel on Interstate 182 when staying within the city limits.
City officials say the Duportail Bridge project is their top transportation priority since the state recently provided $20 million toward the project. The bridge will provide a direct link for residents, eliminating their need for travel on Interstate 182 when staying within the city limits. Tri-City Herald

There’s always been a lot riding on Duportail Bridge, Richland’s top civic priority since at least 2007.

With the start of construction just 18 months off, commercial real estate professionals are starting to anticipate a bump in property values once drivers embrace the new corridor.

The bridge’s many civic benefits were outlined in 2014, when the city applied — unsuccessfully —for $28 million in federal funding. Hoping to secure a fat subsidy, it outlined a myriad of environmental, economic and engineering reasons to spend $38.5 million to bridge the Yakima River at Duportail Street.

Among them: The undertaking would save $30 million in upgrades to Interstate 182, prevent traffic-related deaths and injuries, support 274 jobs during construction, improve access to trails and a boat ramp on the Yakima River, save drivers $1.3 million in annual car-related expenses by 2020, slash air pollution, keep drinking water supplies flowing to 20,000 south Richland households and speed up emergency response times for police and fire crews.

That additional transportation link makes it work better.

Carl Adrian, president and CEO, TRIDEC

While the bridge’s immediate benefits are amply documented, its longer-term effect on neighboring properties is now coming into view. Economic leaders and commercial real estate brokers agree the bridge will elevate commercial real estate values, particularly on the Queensgate side of the Yakima.

The bridge stopped being a dream and started being a reality when the 2015 Washington Legislature earmarked $20 million in its $16 billion transportation package. The package is funded by an 11.9 cent-per-gallon gas tax.

The city has funded design work by Federal Way-based BergerABAM and expects the state money to become available in July 2017.

$38.5 millionCost of Duportail Bridge

Though it’s still almost $20 million short of what it needs, the city says bid documents should be ready by mid-2017. That sets the stage for construction of the four-lane bridge with sidewalks and bike lanes to begin next fall. The bridge would open two years later.

The city will submit another request for federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants in the interim. Thanks to the state’s $20 million contribution, Richland will lower its request, said Jeffrey Peters, transportation and development manager.

To economic development leaders, Duportail Bridge will take thousands of vehicles off of I-182 every day and route them through Queensgate and Richland’s central business district. That’s good for adjoining land owners.

“It makes a lot of ground more accessible,” said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council.

Scott Musser, a Pasco real estate auctioneer, said the new bridge will eliminate the disconnect between Queensgate and the Richland core.

“It’s going to dramatically change the traffic patterns,” he said.

Queensgate is big winner

Adrian predicts and commercial brokers agree Queensgate is the big winner. Walmart, Target and Home Depot and the smaller businesses that flank them easily total more than 700,000 square feet of retail space. Better traffic flows will make the undeveloped parcels that much more attractive to developers and the tenants they serve.

“That additional transportation link makes it work better,” Adrian said.

Rusty Morse, a commercial broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial, said he hasn’t heard of anyone buying land in advance of construction. But the impact is already noticeable.

“There are people with property on the corridor who have been asking high prices in anticipation of (the bridge),” he said.

The city itself stands to benefit from rising property values. At a recent council workshop, city staffers reported that developers have expressed interest in a 10-acre city-owned site fronting Duportail. With the council’s blessing, the city will market the property as a potential site for commercial or apartment development.

Existing retailers stand to benefit most from the new bridge, said Charles Laird, co-owner of Tippett Company Real Estate Services. Reducing traffic jams will bring more traffic and increase the likelihood passersby will patronize businesses on their way to and from work.

“You might run over to Starbucks and get a cup of coffee,” he said.

Mobile home park access

The Hills Manufactured Home Park is a 277-space neighborhood roughly south of Duportail and east of Queensgate. Its most-used entrance faces Duportail, which currently dead-ends just past the park entrance.

Residents fret that once the bridge is open, that entrance will be unusable. Park manager Rick Weenink said the city promised a traffic light. Peters, of the city, said there are plans to install a light, though it may not be part of the actual bridge construction.

“If we have a light, we’ll be fine,” he said.

I call this Stupidland out here. When I pull out to go to Starbucks, I have to slam on my brakes four times.

Ron Weenink, manager The Hills Manufactured Home Park

Weenink said he supports any move that brings traffic under control.

“I call this Stupidland out here. When I pull out to go to Starbucks, I have to slam on my brakes four times.”

Ron Ferry, a two-year resident of the park, is another supporter. He shares a car with his wife and often gets around on foot and bike. When the bridge is open, he’ll be able to pedal to the other side to visit family.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Good for tourism

Last but not least, the Duportail Bridge will boost tourism by untangling traffic in an area that’s full of tourist-related amenities, including wineries, restaurants, a movie theater and in the not-too-distant future, a hotel.

Kris Watkins, president of Visit Tri-Cities, the agency responsible for promoting the region to visitors and conventions, said investing in transportation helps travel and tourism. Even bridge-related upgrades to an informal boat ramp below the bridge will activate the area.

“Tourists love to shop, go to wineries and restaurants. Queensgate is all about that,” she said.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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