Myra Road grade project OK'd

The plan does not include an overpass or jug handle.

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WALLA WALLA -- What started out in 2007 as a grade-lowering on Myra Road for less than $2 million, then ramped up over the next three years with the addition of an overpass and jug-handle style interchange to a $5.7 million proposal, finally received approval looking and costing a lot more like the original project.

With all but one member of the Walla Walla and College Place city councils in favor, the $2.8 million project was approved Tuesday.

In May, the councils met to discuss the project, which was $2.8 million short of funding.

The result was that both councils voted to split the cost of a $20,000 study by DKS Associates to consider traffic benefits, funding options and how best to scale back the project.

At a joint meeting of the councils Tuesday, a DKS spokesperson said that while an overpass would be the ideal way to deal with future traffic, having separate grades would most likely lead to the cities having to split the $2.8 million in additional costs.

So DKS engineers recommended scaling back to the fully funded option, which would still lower the grade but with no overpass.

The initial goal was to lower Myra Road south of Dalles Military Road from its current grade of close to 5 percent to under 3 percent, thus meeting federal and state transportation safety standards.

The project is expected to improve freight mobility by reducing the risk of crashes in icy conditions, as well as improving visibility for motorists.

Walla Walla and College Place will each contribute $300,000 for the project, with the remainder paid by federal and regional funds.

The proposal was unanimously approved by the College Place Council.

The Walla Walla Council had one dissenting vote; Mayor Barbara Clark said she felt using $300,000 of utility fund money was inappropriate, especially when the city is trying to increase construction on "higher priority" infrastructure projects.

College Place will use general fund reserves to pay for its portion of the project.

This fall, city officials will reapply for funding of the scaled down project, and planners are expecting approval.

If approved, work will most likely begin in 2013, with the delay due to reviews and easement agreements that still need to be worked out, officials said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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