The City of Pasco is the easternmost of the Tri-Cities located in Franklin County, Washington. Nestled among agricultural land, burgeoning vineyards, prospering industries, and the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the City is well-suited to continue its rapid growth. The population is currently over 70,000 people, and is a cultural and economic mix of populations (about 55 percent of the City’s population is Latino). The eastern portion of Pasco is growing rapidly. Limited shopping and service opportunities in the eastern part of town require residents to cross under the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad tracks on Lewis Street to access services such as city and county government offices, the hospital, and shopping centers in the western portion of the city. The existing constricted undercrossing (constructed in 1937) is a barrier to community connection, freight movement, emergency services, and represents a public safety concern for the community. The Lewis Street undercrossing is the most direct connection across the railroad tracks to downtown from east Pasco, though it is constrictive and unsafe for vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians and subject to increasing congestion. Other connections are either too far north (I-182) or south (Ainsworth Street) to be viable alternate routes.
Project Need and Description
The existing underpass, built in 1937, is now functionally obsolete and a barrier to transport and community vitality. The walkway is enclosed and lacks visibility. Many citizens have expressed safety concerns with people living and loitering in the underpass. The roadway has narrow traffic lanes and does not meet current overhead clearance standards, requiring many modern freight vehicles to use other routes. The outdated underpass results in a choke point on a major arterial for the city and regional transportation system in a growing and diverse area. The facility is vulnerable to accidents and disasters, and a closure of the crossing could seriously affect statewide freight mobility. Additionally, the narrowness of the railroad roadbed on top of the underpass creates a “choke point” in the regional railroad network. A study in 2000 identified alternatives to replace the existing Lewis Street underpass. The report adopted by the community recommended an overpass concept to address the issues most important to the City and regional transportation needs.
The recommended overpass touches down near 2nd Avenue on the west, and Lewis Street and Oregon Avenue on the east. The proposal includes appropriate travel lanes to enhance mobility and safety for the users of this roadway.
Key Project Benefits
Provides an important and safe link between the Pasco Central Business District and eastern Pasco for freight, emergency service vehicles, school buses, residents, and businesses.
Provides a gateway into Pasco, making it more recognizable for visitors and allows east Pasco residents to access shopping and other services in the downtown and west Pasco area more conveniently.
Revitalizes an area that is ripe for redevelopment with the appropriate supporting infrastructure.
Provides a safe, handicap-accessible walking and biking route to two public elementary schools, a middle school and four City parks.
Creates safe and wide, handicap accessible sidewalks and bicycle ways for those who bike or walk.
Serves as a connection for a culturally and economically diverse neighborhood to shopping, social services and the hospital.
Improves accessibility for people with disabilities or people without access to vehicles.
Mitigates a threat to a Homeland Security issue associated within BNSF’s primary rail corridor between the east and west coasts.
Allows freight, emergency services, and other vehicles a fast and direct connection between west and east Pasco through the downtown.
Improves the route for transit, school buses, and emergency services vehicles.
Upgrades water quality and runoff treatment.
Enhances economic development.
Removes a constricted railroad crossing in the statewide rail system and maintains and increases freight movement throughout the state.
Resolves a rail security problem that threatens statewide mobility.
Project Status (as of Fall 2017)
Design work, right-of-way acquisition, project permitting, and environmental review is complete
Right-of-way easement to be completed when project is funded
The Pasco community supports this project, including:
Mayor and City Council
BNSF Railway Company
Benton-Franklin-Walla Walla Good Roads Association
Pasco Chamber of Commerce
Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Tri-Cities Legislative Council
Local business community
Downtown Pasco Development Authority
Pasco School District
Police, Fire, and Emergency Services
Benton Franklin Council of Governments
Anticipated Project Cost
Total: $35.7 million (2017 dollars)
Construction: $24.5 million
State Funding Request: $15 million (Committed as part of the Connection Washington Partnership)
Local Funding: $2.2 million ($8.5 million has been spent for engineering, permitting, and right-of-way acquisition)