As the Columbia River Crossing debate rages on, Clark County is moving forward with a bridge project of its own — albeit on a much smaller scale.
Clark County is in the early stages of its nearly $32 million Northeast 10th Avenue improvement, which includes building a 375-foot bridge over Whipple Creek. When complete, the project will extend 10th Avenue from Northeast 149th Street to Northeast 164th Street, providing a north-south corridor parallel to Interstate 5.
The stretch of 10th Avenue to be improved is a country road just 10 to 20 feet wide with little or no shoulders. The project will build one travel lane in each direction, bicycle lanes, sidewalks and facilities to collect and treat polluted storm runoff, said Jeff Mize, Clark County Public Works spokesman.
The bridge over Whipple Creek will stand nearly twice as tall as the county's Highway 99 bridge over Salmon Creek and will stretch more than twice as long, Mize said. The new bridge will have two lanes and bicycle and pedestrian amenities; it's designed to meet the traffic needs for 75 to 100 years, he said.
"This is a sizable project that is going to take a significant amount of work," Mize said.
Construction isn't expected to begin until 2017. In the next four years, county officials will complete design, environmental, traffic and other engineering work.
Last month, county officials attended the North Salmon Creek Neighborhood Association meeting to introduce the project and answer questions.
Paul Scarpelli, president of the association, said the neighborhood response to the project was positive. Future meetings with the county will give residents an opportunity to voice concerns, should any arise, he said.
"At this point, it looks exciting," Scarpelli said. "We understand the necessity for it and just hope it's done the most effective way with as little impact to people as possible."
Next month, the county will attend the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association meeting.
In addition to connecting the fairgrounds and Salmon Creek areas, the extension will improve local traffic circulation by completing the transportation grid pattern in the area, Mize said. The road will also provide an alternate route to the Event Center at the Fairgrounds and Sleep Country Amphitheater, and improve access to commercial and light industrial properties, he said.
The 10th Avenue improvement will be split into two projects.
The first will improve the section between Northeast 149th and Northeast 154th streets. Rough estimates put that project total at $7.3 million.
The second project will improve 10th Avenue from Northeast 154th to Northeast 164th streets and construct a bridge over Whipple Creek. The estimated price tag for the project is $24.4 million.
The project is part of the county's six-year traffic improvement plan. The county plans to tap its road fund and apply for state grants and low-interest loans to pay for the project, Commissioner Steve Stuart said. Business owners in the area have also indicated a willingness to help finance the project because they see the improvement project as beneficial, he said.
"It's a good project," Stuart said.
Next year, the county is set to improve another, smaller stretch of 10th Avenue. That project will improve 10th Avenue from 141st Street to 149th Street. The Salmon Creek Interchange project improved 10th Avenue from Tenney Road to 141st Street.
The county's 10th Avenue project will continue the work that's already begun.
"We see it as a natural extension of the Salmon Creek Interchange project," Mize said.