Help decide where to 'bridge' the Tri-Cities

About 60,000 vehicles cross the blue bridge every day. That number is pretty easy to calculate.

Mechanical devices will count how many cars cross the bridge. The more difficult question is why people are crossing the bridge.

That's where you come in.

The idea of another bridge across the Columbia has been floating around for years. But where would it best serve the public?

The Benton Franklin Council of Governments has come up with 10 potential options for another bridge and launched a $250,000 study to narrow the list to five alternatives.

Public input into the process is limited to an internet survey. Frankly, it may be a better way to measure preferences than the old-school public meetings, which often draw only a handful of people.

Here's the survey.

But without a broad sampling of drivers, the results will be skewed. In other words, your input is crucial. If you do not have a computer connection at home, the good people at the nearest library branch surely can help.

The survey says it takes about 10 minutes to complete, which is a lot quicker way to give your input than to spend a few hours at a public hearing waiting for your turn to speak.

However, be warned that you will be expected to think during the 10 minutes. It might help you to pull out your calendar when you go to the computer.

The survey wants to know how many times you have crossed each of our three bridges in the past seven days for work, play, shopping or other purposes. (Those are four separate categories.)

We found it was hard to pull those numbers off the top of our heads.

Most Tri-City drivers are so accustomed to flitting from one side of the river to the other, we hardly recognize that we are doing it anymore.

Some of us lose track of how many times we cross the river in a day, let alone in the past week.

It is easy to underestimate how much we really use the bridges, but close one of them down for a couple of days, and suddenly everyone is acutely aware of how dependent we are on them.

If it were left to an open-ended selection of potential bridge sites, most people certainly would have an opinion, but likely not a very thoughtful one. It easily could become a popularity contest based on perceptions, not the greatest need.

The survey forces you to consider details about your travels between Franklin and Benton counties.

It also lists options you may not have considered.

When you drive down Edison Street toward the river, it is pretty easy to imagine how Road 68 and Edison Street could hook up.

Or if you are traveling from north of Pasco to Washington State University Tri-Cities, it is easy to understand why some people use a kayak instead of Interstate 182 to get to work.

But the study's consulting group, J-U-B Engineers, is reviewing eight other alternatives, including some that may prove to be very good.

We recommend you consider your travel patterns, consult your day planner and jump online to take the survey with an open mind.

Your results might surprise you.