Bill includes millions for Tri-Cities

Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald staff writer

Millions of dollars for Tri-City area projects are included in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, a federal spending package unveiled Monday.

The money would go to build a plant to turn ag waste into electricity, extend Steptoe Street, help Ben Franklin Transit, provide public access to Hanford’s historic B Reactor and expand Kadlec Medical Center in Richland.

“We are investing in Main Street again,” said Sen. Patty Murray in a statement. “In the face of a deepening recession, this bill puts federal funding back into our communities where it can create jobs and address local needs.”

Murray worked to include the money in the omnibus bill as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Many federal agencies have been operating under a continuing resolution funding at last year’s level after Congress did not pass spending bills before the October 1 start of fiscal 2009.

The bill sets spending for the rest of the year and is separate from the stimulus bill signed last week. The omnibus bill must be approved by the full House and Senate before it goes for signature in the next few weeks.

The Tri-Cities projects include:

  • The Port of Benton’s demonstration project to turn agriculture waste into thermal and electrical energy would receive $951,000 to help build and maintain a facility to turn plant waste into pellets to be gasified to produce energy.  “Biomass production is a great way to use the Tri-Cities’ agricultural roots to build a new industry for the region,” Murray said.
  • Steptoe Street, on the border between Kennewick and South Richland, would be extended using $2.185 million. The street is planned to run between 10th Avenue and Gage Boulevard to provide a connection between Interstate 82 and Highway 240.
  • Ben Franklin Transit would receive almost $1.758 million to expand its maintenance building with six new bays for smaller vehicles in the fleet.
  • Work to design a public access road to Hanford’s historic B Reactor would begin with $190,000. The Department of Energy is working to open the reactor to public tours Saturdays, but visitors will have to take a van to the reactor from Highway 24 near the Vernita Bridge. Plans call for developing a public road from there to the reactor.
  • Kadlec Medical Center would receive $809,000 to expand services for children, including an expanded neonatal intensive care unit. “This funding is another step forward in building a state-of-the-art pediatric center to serve the Tri-Cities community,” Murray said.

Kadlec has increased its employees from 719 in 1999 to about 1,450 now and should have an additional 400 by 2010, her office said.



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