The costs of the Myra Road/Dalles Military Road intersection are inching up once again. The new design team from Vancouver has requested the Walla Walla City Council approve a $528,000 contract that allows the city manager to spend up to $547,000 without being reapproved by Council. This represents an increase from the $476,000 that the last design team estimated.
This contract is just added on to the $440,000 the city of Walla Walla has already spent pursuing a vision of a new intersection. At this point, what will be built is an intersection that is 6 to 8 feet lower that is estimated at $3 million.
The first $440,000 identified the slope of Myra Road as an inconvenience, but within allowable standards, for truck drivers. Safety is not an issue. Within the study scope there were two automobile accidents of any significance. The new intersection will be wider and faster. Expect the accident rates to increase.
Facing a dilemma, Walla Walla City Council will probably approve this contract and move forward with the project. The availability of state and federal funds act as bait that the Council cannot resist despite facing an unbalanced city budget in the near future.
At issue is the first $440,000 the city has spent. It nibbled on the bait (about $208,000) and may have to return the cheese to the state if a project is not forthcoming.
The city of College Place is a partner in this project and is looking at an expenditure of around $300,000 for a new intersection that will serve its community. Leveraging $300,000 into a capital improvement of $3 million appears to be best use for its dollars. College Place City Council has indicated it will follow the lead of Walla Walla.
I suppose I should be satisfied that this project has been scaled back from $6 million to less than $4 million, but when the state and federal governments are in fiscal crisis I expect Walla Walla to be more conservative - spending on real needs that serve the Valley and offering governmental leadership in fiscal management. Maybe the new faces sitting on the Council can offer solutions and quit being part of the problem.