County, city exploring Pullman bypass

·2 min read

Jan. 14—Whitman County and Pullman officials believe they have found a viable Pullman bypass route and are working with the state to explore it further.

The county has identified Sand and Kirkendahl roads as a possible bypass for freight vehicles that would connect U.S. Highway 195 in Washington with U.S. Highway 95 in Idaho.

Pullman has been interested in a bypass for years because it would reduce the amount of freight traffic that travels through the city's downtown.

Whitman County Public Works Director Mark Storey said he is meeting with Washington State Department of Transportation officials and the Palouse Regional Transportation Planning Organization next week to discuss funding a feasibility study for the proposed bypass route.

Storey told the county commissioners Monday that the county recently invested several million dollars into improving Sand Road because there's been an increase in traffic.

It submitted a proposal to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' office in the spring to try and get $8-$10 million for further improvements to make it a true south Pullman bypass. It also contacted the Washington Legislature about getting state money for the project.

Transforming the roads into a bypass would require road realignment, bridge construction and road reconstruction, Storey said.

Other possible bypass routes north and south of the city have been identified, but they come with an expensive cost.

Storey said transforming Sand and Kirkendahl roads into a bypass would be considerably cheaper. That means it may have a better chance of getting funding from the state and federal government.

"That $10 million may sound like a lot of money, but it's a whole lot less than $100 million or $50 million to do the two bypasses already identified," he said.

Pullman Public Works Director Shawn Kohtz said another advantage is that public right of way already exists for those two roads.

Kohtz, who met with Storey last week to discuss the bypass, said the city is supportive of the county's effort. He said a feasibility study will shed light on how much traffic could be diverted away from Pullman.

Kohtz said this route would likely reduce traffic in Moscow as well.

"I think there would be benefits for both communities," Kohtz said.

This bypass route may not take all of the trucks out of downtown Pullman, but County Commissioner Art Swannack said Monday he envisions it being used frequently at certain times of the year when trucks haul hay out of Idaho and into Washington.

Swannack said WSDOT is looking for "original and creative approaches to reducing costs" and that is why this route is an appealing project.

"This one they thought had that potential," he said

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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