Crossing Highway 395 could get safer with this Kennewick underpass at Southridge

A $22.5 million underpass could give drivers another, safer way to cross busy Highway 395 in west Kennewick.

And city officials want to hear what drivers and others think of the plan.

The open house is 5-7 p.m. Wednesday on the proposal to route Ridgeline Drive underneath Highway 395.

Ridgeline underpass rendering.jpg
Ridgeline Drive would be routed under Highway 395. Courtesy city of Kennewick

Ridgeline currently crosses the highway between Hildebrand Boulevard and Interstate 82.

A signal intersection is considered unsafe because downhill highway traffic builds up speed, making it harder to stop at traffic lights.

The city previously considered bridging the highway, but altered plans to go beneath in 2018. The underpass will be built in partnership with the Washington Department of Transportation.

The project includes on- and off-ramps at Ridgeline Drive, widening the west side of Highway 395 to Interstate 82 and the east side to Hildebrand Boulevard.

Ridgeline intersection
An open house on the new interchange project is June 12. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

The northbound off-ramp will end in a roundabout at Ridgeline Drive and Zintel Way.

Left turn lanes will be added to all legs at Hildebrand.

The project will be advertised to contractors in early 2020, with a groundbreaking set for next spring.

Underpass to be done in 2021

Construction will last into 2021.

A $22.5 million underpass will carry drivers safely beneath Highway 395 at Ridgeline Drive in west Kennewick. Courtesy city of Kennewick

The city is paying for the interchange project with $14.6 million from Connecting Washington program, plus funding from the National Highway Freight Program and a Public Works Trust Fund loan from the state.

Connecting Washington is the $16 billion transportation package passed by the 2015 Washington Legislature. It is funded by an 11.9 cent-per-gallon gas tax that took full effect in 2016.

Elsewhere in the Mid-Columbia, Connecting Washington is providing major financial support for Richland’s Duportail bridge across the Yakima River, Pasco’s Lewis Street overpass across the BNSF Railway yards, the future Red Mountain interchange at I-82 between Benton City and West Richland, and congestion relief on the Richland “bypass” stretch of Highway 240.

Wednesday’s open house is at Southridge High School library, 3520 Southridge Blvd.

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.