Palouse Street bridge to open

The passage over Mill Creek will be open for weekend traffic until work is complete.

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WALLA WALLA -- Palouse Street bridge between Main and Alder streets is expected to open for traffic today, whether it's finished or not.

After missing a deadline to finish the project by four months, contractor Apollo Inc. of Kennewick agreed to open the bridge for weekend traffic from here on.

Owners of Stash, a speciality fabric store at 43 S. Palouse St., said they were under the impression that the bridge would be open for weekend traffic after the first completion deadline was missed in December.

"I thought that they were going to do that before," Stash co-owner Kristen McVane said, who added that the road closure has hurt her business. But she also noted that she couldn't say exactly how much they have lost in sales because Stash opened last year.

"We do not know because we are a brand-new business. So we don't have any idea," she said.

Of the several other business that line Palouse Street on the block just south of the bridge, El Corazon Winery was the only other to report suffering losses due to the closure.

The $859,000 Palouse Street bridge project started last August and was supposed to be completed by mid-December, but work was delayed.

City Manager Nabiel Shawa said that until the project is complete, he is reluctant to comment on whether or not the city will fine Apollo Inc. for missing its deadline.

As of April 15, Apollo was officially working 55 days behind schedule, and at a daily fine of $1,600 per day, Apollo could be liable for up to $88,000 in penalties, according to Shawa. But he added that even if the city did go through with fining Apollo, it wouldn't get any of the money because the project is federally funded.

"We are considering it. But no decision has been made. There is really no great economic advantage to the city to implement the fine because all of the fines go back to the federal government," he said.

McVane said she also saw no reason to fine Apollo at this point. And she added, "It doesn't really matter because the fines aren't helping us in any way. So it doesn't really help us. We just want the bridge open."

Shawa said Apollo has agreed to contribute $2,500 to an advertising fund for the Palouse Street businesses that were affected.

Ironically, the first Saturday the bridge has been open for months will also see a road closure for that portion of the street during the Tour of Walla Walla Criterium bike race.

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