A front-page article in the December 16 Tri-City Herald discussed a survey initiated by the Washington State Department of Transportation that asked Tri-City drivers for their ideas for solutions to the problem of traffic congestion through Richland during Hanford commuting hours.
Although there were many interesting ideas, we don’t think the survey provided any real answers to the problem.
In 2010, however, a study was initiated by the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments (BFCG) in partnership with the cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland, along with Benton and Franklin Counties and the Ports of Benton, Pasco, Kennewick, and Walla Walla. The report, called the “Columbia River Crossing Study — Tri-Cities,” provided a real, workable solution along with an implementation plan for a new bridge across the Columbia River.
The report was approved by the BFCG Board on Feb., 25, 2011, and recommended the North Richland alternative as number 1 among the locations studied. It would build a new span from the North Richland area to Franklin County using Sagemoor Road and a new connecting roadway to Highway 240/Highway 225.
This plan was recently proposed again in an open letter to the Tri-Cities on Sept. 2 by former Tri-City Development Council president, Bob Ferguson. He proposed a new mission for Hanford to become a Clean Energy Research & Development Park. He also proposed a new bridge to alleviate current worker traffic — and additional worker traffic associated with new employment to support the infrastructure of a Clean Energy Park.
The new bridge built across the Columbia River in North Richland would allow the more than 3,000 workers who live on the Pasco side of the Columbia River to bypass the congested sections of roads from Stevens Drive at Interstate 182 north to Highway 240 and the intersection with Highway 225/Hanford Route 10. The bridge also would support Washington State’s beltway concept to save time and fuel costs for workers and reduce carbon emissions.
It has been nearly 10 years since the BFCG report recommended the solution of a new bridge. Now, more than ever, is the time for the community to get behind this practical solution to the traffic congestion.
Around the time of the BFCG report, the local Department of Energy office sent a draft Environmental Impact Statement to DOE headquarters proposing that a natural gas pipeline be installed under the Columbia River.
This proposal was never acted on due to the concerns of the tribes and others regarding running a natural gas pipeline under the river. However, if a bridge is built, a natural gas pipeline could be located under the bridge to provide cleaner burning fuel to replace the current use of oil and diesel fuel to finish the Hanford cleanup effort and to support the new clean energy park.
Financial savings created by the DOE’s current Test Bed Initiative (TBI) to speed up the disposal of low-level radioactive tank waste at Hanford would save billions of dollars. Some of these savings could be used to provide funding for the bridge construction, as well as new jobs as the Hanford cleanup winds down and Hanford embarks on a new mission as a Clean Energy Research & Development Park.
Robert Larson is Commissioner for the Port of Benton. Bob Ferguson is the former DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Programs and former president of TRIDEC.
Tri-Citians can still take the traffic survey on the state Department of Transportation website. Online, click on bit.ly/2UGMS4p to take it.