There will be roundabouts: Queensgate updates planned in 2018

Benton County is contributing $1.8 million to a Richland project to upgrade the stretch of Queensgate Drive between Interstate 182 and Keene Road.
Benton County is contributing $1.8 million to a Richland project to upgrade the stretch of Queensgate Drive between Interstate 182 and Keene Road. Tri-City Herald

Richland’s controversial Duportail Bridge project draws the headlines, but a companion project to upgrade parts of Queensgate Drive will soon be under construction.

The Benton County Commission is expected to support the city’s $5 million package of Queensgate projects with a $1.8 million grant from the Rural County Capital Fund when it meets Oct. 31. With funding in hand, the city will advertise for contractors in late 2017 or early 2018.

Construction will take place in the first half of next year.

The Queensgate budget also includes about $2.4 million in federal surface transportation funds and $500,000 in city funds.

The Rural County Capital Fund, fueled by Washington’s 0.09 percent sales tax rebate to local governments, is fast turning into a go-to funding source for transformative projects.

Since 2016, Benton County has split the money from the rebate with its cities and ports.

To date, the fund has been tapped to help develop the Columbia Gardens wine-themed development on Columbia Drive in Kennewick, a sewer lift station that will open land near I-82 in Benton City for development, and the Port of Benton’s Vintners Village II project in Prosser.

The cities of Prosser and West Richland are pursuing project money too.

Richland earmarked its share to for Queensgate, following a 2015 study of the notoriously congested stretch.

J-U-B Engineers found substantial delays on Queensgate Drive during evening commute hours. The study projects congestion will continue to build as the Badger Mountain South area is developed with potentially 2,300 new residences.

The Queensgate project is part a larger series of investments to improve connections between south Richland and the rest of the community.

The Duportail Bridge will provide connections to the north while the new freeway interchanges will help to the south. That should buy the city 15 years of breathing room, said Pete Rogalsky, public works director. The Queensgate project includes:

▪  A new westbound right-turn lane from Keene Road onto Queensgate

▪  Two new travel lanes between Keene and I-182

▪  Roundabouts at the intersection with Columbia Park Trail and at the eastbound exit/entrance ramp to I-182

▪  New bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both sides

▪  A 12-foot separated shared use path that will connect the Keene Road path to the existing I-182 path

▪  A new extension of Columbia Park Trail between Queensgate Drive and Jericho Court

In Duportail-related news, the city advertised the $38 million project earlier this month and expects to open bids Nov. 30.

The bridge will carry Duportail Street and a critical new water supply line from downtown Richland across the Yakima River and connect with Queensgate on the city’s west side.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell