Workers to patch Lewis Street underpass this week

Crews this week plan to patch the crumbling Lewis Street underpass that Pasco officials hope to replace with a $31 million railroad overpass as soon as grants can be found.

The underpass will be closed for a week starting today.

Part of the problem with the narrow overpass is that cracks are forming in the concrete, said Stan Strebel, deputy city manager.

Then water gets in the cracks and freezes and thaws. Over time, that causes pieces to flake off and could become unstable.

Matheson Painting Contractors of Pasco uses a polymer paint designed to stabilize concrete, Strebel said.

The company will clean the area and make repairs with mortar if needed, he said. Then its crew will spray the stabilizing finish. The repair will cost about $67,000.

The underpass will be closed through Friday. The detour is from Oregon Avenue to A Street, to First Avenue and then to Lewis Street.

It's primarily the east and west entrances of the underpass, where the concrete railing is, that need fixing, Strebel said.

The same repair was done about 10 years ago, he said.

The railroad overpass is officially inspected each year by Franklin County, which has bridge inspectors certified by the state Department of Transportation.

Pasco is looking for federal and state grants to replace the bridge but budget cuts at both levels mean final construction grants for projects like the overpass aren't really available, he said.

"We are doing what we can," Strebel said.

The city hopes to get $10 million each from the state and federal governments and use $5 million in city money for the construction project.

Meanwhile, Pasco is still in the process of buying properties between Second and Tacoma avenues and Clark and Lewis streets.

The city hired HDR Engineering in March 2010 for $442,000 to handle the appraisals and buying of the land.

Strebel said negotiations have been completed with 12 of the 14 property owners in that area, and many have already started to leave the buildings.

The city still needs to finish talks with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which operates its food bank in the area, and the Washington State Railroads Historical Society, which has its train museum on Tacoma Avenue.

Some smaller properties will need to be bought on the east side of the railroad tracks as well.

J-U-B Engineers is essentially finished with the final design for the project, Strebel said. The city hired the firm to design the overpass for $1.48 million in June 2010.