About $5.3 million in federal stimulus money will pay for 11 transportation projects in Benton and Franklin counties.
Nearly $3 million will be going to Benton County and Richland. Richland should receive about $1.6 million to overhaul First Street in the Tri-Cities Research District near Washington State University Tri-Cities. Benton County is set to receive about $1.2 million to help fund the Webber Canyon Road project. The stimulus money should pay for a thoroughfare that runs from Webber Canyon Road, through Kiona and underneath a proposed railroad bridge.
Other large chunks of funding include $750,000 for Franklin County to reroute a section of Road 170 that was buried by a landslide in 2006; $750,000 for Pasco to pave Powerline Road between Road 68 and Broadmoor Blvd, also known as Road 100; and $500,000 for Prosser to overhaul Sheridan Avenue.
Smaller chunks of funding include $220,000 to the Port of Pasco to extend rail service several thousand feet into the Big Pasco Industrial Center; $207,000 for Benton City to pour sidewalks along a portion of Seventh Street; and $140,000 to Kennewick to put sidewalks and landscaping along the north side of Canal Street between Volland and Neel Streets.
Most of the 11 projects should begin by late spring or early summer.
Richland officials are hoping the stimulus dollars cover the price tag of a project that may breathe life into a fledgling commercial area. First Street, a deteriorating street built in the 1950’s is lined by power lines and flanked by fields of sagebrush.
Richland Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky repeatedly used the word “bleak” to describe the area. “The idea is that the street, and infrastructure for the street, set the stage for development.” he said. “The existing street is in very poor physical condition.”
In Benton County, an official said the stimulus money will go toward a project that should increase safety. About five miles of Webber Canyon Road now is being reconstructed, and plans have been made to build an underpass that would run beneath the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks just north of Kiona. Stimulus money would be used to build a road that would connect the reconstructed portion of Webber Canyon Road with the Benton City interchange by running through the proposed underpass.
“It deals with safety.” said Ross Dunfee, Benton County Public Works Director. “We eliminate the potential of a blend of railroad and vehicle travel.”