Has the City selected a preferred option?
No. All of the above options, as well as a no-build option, are on equal footing at the present time. An analysis and comparison process is planned to select a preferred option. The analysis and comparison process will involve traffic engineering analysis by consulting engineers, City staff, and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) staff. A portion of this analysis has been completed. In addition, other characteristics of the options will be compared such as cost, pedestrian safety, effects on street system connectivity, property impacts, and environmental impacts such as traffic noise and neighborhood character. A public outreach process is planned for June 2015, in which public input will be sought on the options. After the public outreach process, City staff will present the technical evaluation and the public input to the City Council for selection of a preferred alternative.
Will any of the options really improve traffic flow on George Washington Way?
Yes. All of the improvement options will dramatically improve travel efficiency on George Washington Way. Even with increased traffic that is projected for the coming years the City’s analysis shows that the improvement options will reduce delay by approximately 40%.
Did the City consider other options?
Yes. The City's planning process started with a brainstorming study by a well-regarded traffic engineering consultant. The initial study generated more than ten alternative designs. Each of these designs was analyzed using a traffic operations simulation model loaded with traffic volumes representing current conditions and traffic volumes expected in the next twenty years. The alternatives being presented for public consideration were the only ones that achieved acceptable performance under the future traffic conditions. Major structural modifications to the freeway interchange were not included in the City's studies because they would be far more expensive and require far more difficult agency consultations.
When will the City hold public information meetings for the residents and businesses impacted by these proposed changes?
The City held an open house on June 11, 2015 at the Richland Community Center. The City does anticipate additional meetings as the project develops. In addition, on-line materials and a survey were provided for several weeks in June to collect public input.
When does the City anticipate receiving approval to move forward from WSDOT and FHA?
The City, WSDOT, and FHWA staff met in Olympia on May 7, 2015 at which time FHWA and WSDOT staff supported the City’s planned public process and consideration of the three alternatives. After the City selects a preferred alternative, further detailed design reviews will be required before final approval is granted, but the City is now confident that any of the alternatives can be implemented.
Would the Split T Configuration close access to GWW from Aaron Drive?
Yes. As proposed, Option Two and Option Three would close the Adams Street/Aaron Drive connection. As a result, the Abbot Street and Adams Street residents would need to use either Benham or Comstock to access George Washington Way. Currently, commuter traffic uses these residential streets to avoid using GWW, making these local neighborhood streets busier than is desirable. This increase in traffic also decreases the safety for pedestrians and residents, because the current configuration of the roads were not intended to carry these commuter vehicles. This proposal also includes a discussion topic on whether to open access by connecting Jadwin across the shelterbelt to Aaron Drive. This would provide an additional outlet for residents and businesses impacted by this reconfiguration.
Why would the City build a new road along the existing shelterbelt area?
Enough space has to be present between the two intersections on George Washington Way in the Split T configuration in order for them to function properly. The shelterbelt location is a good distance from Columbia Point Drive to ensure efficient traffic movement. The new street would reduce the number of commute or through trips that would use the neighborhood residential streets. Option Two would have a significantly reduced impact on existing private property over the expanded footprint option or Option Three, which require complete purchase of entire parcels.
How will the City mitigate the impact of Option Two on the adjacent properties?
Option Two will include cinder block walls and landscaping to mitigate the impact of new and increased traffic on the new street segment. The walls will be constructed along the backyards of the Abbot Street properties and along the south side of the new street between the street and the adjacent properties. Simple landscaping and a pedestrian path will enhance the connectivity of the neighborhood to George Washington Way.
What will the pedestrian safety features look like?
All of the options are proposed with a pedestrian underpass beneath George Washington Way.
The City believes that the width of George Washington Way and the volume and speed of vehicular traffic presents a
significant barrier to comfortable pedestrian crossings. The pedestrian underpass will be an expensive element of each of the options, but is considered a high value to support walking and bicycling in this area.
Will the ramps to and from I-182 be modified?
Options Two and Three require modifying the northbound ramps off of I-182 and SR240 to reduce the driving speeds as vehicles approach the new intersection. This is needed to allow lane changes to occur at a safer speed and with enough distance. Option One does not require these modifications, but they may be desirable for traffic safety. Modifying the ramps presents the City with an opportunity to introduce landscaping features in the median space and elsewhere to enhance the appearance of this main entrance to downtown Richland and its Waterfront district.
What happens when an entire property must be purchased for a street construction project?
The property is first appraised by two independent professional appraisers who set a fair market value for its acquisition. The property owner is presented with an offer to purchase based on the fair market value appraisals and invited to negotiate the sale of the property. At the same time, plans to relocate the property's users are developed. The relocation plans are developed in consultation with the property owner. Funding separate from the property purchase is available to support relocation to a location selected by the property owner. State and federal guidelines set eligibility criteria for relocation expenses to ensure consistency and fairness. These processes are factored into the project funding and schedule and must be completed before construction is authorized.