Red Mountain interchange update

BENTON CITY - We're waiting for an official budget to be in place, and KEPR learned it could mean a new roundabout for Benton City. It's the Red Mountain project that's been years in the making. Local officials hope tens of millions will finally come this way.

It's a story of a project planned, and then postponed. KEPR has tracked progress of construction of the Red Mountain project for years. Will Newell lives in Benton City, and he's ready for the roads to grow with the community.

"Benton City is growing, I've seen changes," said Benton City resident Will Newell.

WSDOT is looking to eliminate the two stop signs at SR 224 and 225.A single-lane roundabout would go in their place. Will tells me it's needed for safety.

"Everybody is in such a big hurry. I think they need something to slow them down," said Newell.

The project is estimated to cost $4.5 million, down from the proposed six million in 2008.

Reporter: "why the difference on those dollar requests?"
"The initial number was probably something that was quickly put together at that point. We have a better number now that we've done detail and design on phase one," said WSDOT Project Engineer Moe Davari.

The project hit a standstill in 2010 in the midst of the recession. There was no money to make it a priority. But now the agency hopes the money's in the state's transportation package worth $10 billion.

Money would also go toward a new interchange to connect I-82 with SR 224 east of Benton City. That's a much more costly venture, with a bill of more than $25 million. Will sees the need for the future.

"The more people you get, the more congested it's going to get," added Newell.

It's a goal to create better access and safety for Red Mountain.

WSDOT tells us it'll take a couple weeks to realize the full budget decision. If the Red Mountain project is prioritized, funding would start in 2017 for design and construction.

Officials also say upwards of $400 million is also needed to finishing widening parts of Highway 12 to four lanes. If the money is there, work on that would begin in 2019.