A blur of red, white and blue from a truck on Highway 12 lights up the roadside as dusk settles on the rolling hills outside Waitsburg on a fall evening. The stars have yet to show, but there are plenty of stripes in the fields. Friday, October 7, 2011
Matthew B. Zimmerman
WALLA WALLA — Funds for the next phase of four-laning U.S. Highway were not included in the transportation bill passed by the Legislature earlier this week.
Port of Walla Walla Executive Director Jim Kuntz said the no-new-taxes budget kept existing programs funded, but didn’t allow any money for the $126 million needed to widen Highway 12 from Lowden to Touchet.
Kuntz said funding for the project would have to be discussed at the upcoming special session schedule to begin May 13.
The Highway 12 project was ranked seventh on a draft list of 27 highway improvement projects proposed by the House Transportation Committee earlier this month.
Much of the planning on the project has been completed, Kuntz said, including the route layout, environmental permitting and some rights of way acquisition.
The Lowden to Touchet widening would be the seventh phase of the project to four-lane the highway from Walla Walla to Burbank. The final phase would extend the four-laning from Touchet to the Wallula area.
Lawmakers have left aside for now the more contentious question of a transportation revenue package that would augment the budget. That debate is set to resume in the special session, during which lawmakers’ primary focus will be to work toward a deal on the operating budget.