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The Tri-Cities added a whole Walla Walla in less than a decade. And it’s not slowing

U.S. Census Bureau planning for 2020 count

By reusing information people have already provided, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to improve accuracy and reduce the need for census takers to knock on doors in 2020.
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By reusing information people have already provided, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to improve accuracy and reduce the need for census takers to knock on doors in 2020.

If every one of the nearly 33,000 people who call Walla Walla home moved to the Tri-Cities, it still wouldn’t equal the population boom here in just eight years.

The cities of Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland grew by about 36,400 people between 2010 and 2018, according to new population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

As striking as that sounds, its pales compared to the 112,000 more people — or about the size of Everett — predicted to live here in 20 years.

That’s based on projections developed for the Benton-Franklin Council of Government’s Transition2040 plan.

“Wow,” said Skip Novakovich, who represents the Port of Kennewick on the council and serves as its president. “That’s almost three Walla Wallas.”

Novakovich said the continuing growth puts pressure on local government to ensure they are ready with the right mix of residential, commercial and industrial development, not to mention public safety, schools, parks and civic amenities.

“Our partners, the cities and ports, are looking at this,” he said. “They’re doing a good job, but the growth is coming so fast it’s overwhelming everyone.”

PascoGrowth.jpg
New homes in Pasco near Kohler Road and Blackfoot Drive west of Broadmoor Boulevard. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

The new census numbers look at 2018 population estimates for cities.

Last month, the census released similar figures for counties. That batch of numbers showed the Mid-Columbia will reach 300,000 this year, if it hasn’t already.

The new data helps show where the growth is happening that’s driving the Tri-Cities across the 300,000 mark.

How the cities grew

Pasco, not surprisingly, remains the region’s fastest-growing city with nearly 75,000 people in 2018. That’s up 1,800 from the year before and 15,000 in 2010.

Its long-term growth rate was 25%. The council of government estimates Pasco will top 116,000 in 20 years.

Pasco is banking on smart development of the 1,600 acres west of Broadmoor Boulevard/Road 100 to handle at least some of the growth.

This year, it is investing $3.8 million to extend the Harris Road sewer line, a key piece of infrastructure that must be in place before it can develop with residential, commercial, retail and other development.

The private owners are working with the city on a master plan.

WestRichlandgrowth
Growth in West Richland near Keene Road and Belmont Boulevard. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Kennewick remains largest

Kennewick held its status as the largest of the Tri-Cities with a 2018 population of 82,943.

That’s 1,211 more than the previous year and 9,000 more than 2010.

Its long-term growth rate was 12%. Its projected 2040 population is 117,000.

The city is partnering with the Port of Kennewick to redevelop the former Vista Field into a 103-acre mixed-use development. Novakovich called it an example of thoughtful planning for a growing community.

Total Site Services began constructing roads and infrastructure at the former municipal air field last month. It will be ready for developers next year.

Census numbers are interesting, but Kennewick bases its 20-year planning efforts on state projections, said Greg McCormick, community planning director for the city.

McCormick said the city’s long-term plans guide infrastructure and other development to keep up with growth. It pays close attention to the types of development to match zoning with demand.

“There’s a lot going on,” he said.

Richland and West Richland

Richland’s 2018 population was 57,300, an increase of 975 from the prior year and 9,245 since 2010.

Its long-term growth rate was 19%.

Council of government projections indicate Richland will reach 85,000 by 2040.

West Richland was 72 people shy of 15,000 in the 2018 estimate. That’s a gain of 313 from 2017 and 3,117 more than 2010.

Its long-term growth is nearly 26.5%. It is expected to add 8,000 more people by 2040.

2018 population of Mid-Columbia cities (change from 2017)

Benton City 3,440 (68)

Connell 5,566 (28)

Grandview 11,147 (16)

Kahlotus 195 (2)

Mabton 2,282 (-2)

Mesa 513 (3)

Othello 8,269 (67)

Prosser 5,313 (41)

Unincorporated Benton County 36,950 (816)

Unincorporated Franklin County 13,295 (418)

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.

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