New route in Horse Heaven Hills benefits wheat farmers, bicyclists

Three bicyclists joined the crowd gathered at Clodfelter and Locust Grove roads Monday morning for a ribbon-cutting to dedicate four miles of newly laid pavement in the Horse Heaven Hills south of Kennewick.

The $3.5 million project that provides a more direct path to Interstate 82 from Clodfelter Road to help wheat farmers get product to market also provides bicycle riders a much-appreciated new and safe route.

"We've been looking forward to this," said Craig Groendyke of Richland, a Chinook Cycling Club board member.

He said the new pavement, which extends Locus Grove Road to the west about one-half mile to meet Clodfelter Road at a new intersection, is nice and wide, with broad shoulders, making it perfect for cycling.

"It's a good leg-burner," Groendyke said.

Another cyclist, Dick Koenigs of Richland, said the road is a welcome addition to the mix of bicycling pavement in the region.

"It is getting harder to find safe road to ride as the Tri-Cities grows," Koenigs said.

An 0.8-mile big dip on Locust Grove Road gives cyclists a downhill rush followed by a tough pull to the top.

"It gives a good workout," Koenigs said.

"Can't get any better," Groendyke agreed.

But the real reason for the nine-month project was to better connect Clodfelter and Locust Grove, providing a direct connection to the Finley Intertie and Highway 397, said Benton County engineer Malcolm Bowie.

"It will provide connectivity for farmers to get their crops to market, but the cool thing is it opens up to the Locust Grove connection," Bowie said. "That's the beautiful thing about it going to I-82."

Tapani Underground of Battle Ground did the project. The company also worked on the county's Webber Canyon Road project near Benton City, Bowie said.

Bryan Thorp, the county's project engineer, said the new 4.2 miles of pavement clears the way for "grain trucks to go straight through."

The project received $2.25 million from the Washington State County Road Administration Board and $535,000 from the County Road Improvement Matching Program funded through the Hanford payments in lieu of taxes program.

Benton County provided $715,000 from its county road fund, Bowie said.

"This is how a local road project should be done and done well," Jay Weber, executive director of the state road board, said during the dedication.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com