Eminent domain approved for Stevens Drive extension project

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Richland has signed off on the next step to extend Stevens Drive.

It could have a big impact on your travel around town as construction begins - and once it's finished.

Richard Richter has a vested interest in the development around Stevens Drive. He heads up George Grant Construction.

"At first, we were a little concerned because it went right down the middle of our storage yard," said Richter.

Richard looks over the plans. The $2.8 million project is the first phase of Richland's larger vision to put in a "Duportail Bridge" across the Yakima River.

This first portion of the project will create a multi-lane extension of Stevens Drive, first intersecting, then running nearly parallel to Wellsian Way by the Richland Fred Meyer. The area has long been a cause of traffic concerns.

And, by bringing the road through the industrial part of the neighborhood, the city thinks it will not only ease traffic concerns, but revitalize this already less-than-beautiful part of Richland.

Construction is planned for the fall, and it's not expected to affect cars headed to Richland High or Carmichael. The road will cover land that's already taken up by businesses like George Grant Construction.

Richland will begin by offering fair market value for the land.

The city authorized the use of eminent domain if needed.

"The city has no passion or desire to be in that situation, so it's really just a stopgap. It's a final thing if we can't come to a reasonable agreement," said Richland Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky.

The city says all six property owners along the proposed corridor have been open to the idea of selling their land to make way for the Stevens Drive extension.

Richard says he'll have to tear down some of his buildings, but he thinks it will be good for the area.

"The benefits of a brand-new road that someday may be a major thoroughfare into Richland, I think the benefits outweigh any negatives for us," he says.

If the city can lock down property agreements, construction can begin as early as this fall.

The city says the entirety of the bridge project could take between three and 13 years. Much will depend on whether the state passes a gas tax.