Residents want stretch of Ahtanum Road widened - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Residents want stretch of Ahtanum Road widened

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- Residents along Ahtanum Road are voicing their concerns over road safety, where just a week ago a teenage boy from Yakima was killed along the same road when he was hit by a car.

"Further up and further down, we have four lane roads, but down here we only have a two lane road," said Patricia VanDeVenter, who lives near 34th Avenue and Ahtanum Road.

It's an area VanDeVenter says is too narrow.

Just a few blocks east from VanDeVenter's home is Joanne Conduff's home on Ahtanum Rd., where the road narrows down to two lanes.

"It's hard to even get out to do your yard work if you're going to get hit by a car. I've had logging trucks, their trailers come off and go through my fence," Conduff said.

Neighbors we spoke to say they want to see the road widened to four lanes.

"It's very dangerous because the speed limit, first of all," VanDeVenter explained. "Then there's no road. you can't even park on the side. It's narrow."

Yakima County engineers say they're looking into widening Ahtanum, but say their problem is how they'll to pay for it.

"The challenge is that a mile-and-a-half with right of way construction...we're talking about $5-million," County engineer Gary Ekstedt said.

Ekstedt says the county currently has18 projects on the books, including for Ahtanum, but says only five of them having funding.

"There's a back log of needs, but with construction costs and those type of issues, the challenge has been how to fund all of the needs that are out there," Ekstedt explained.

Since 2004 and 2005 construction costs have almost doubled, according to Ekstedt. "So we've had projects that we're that we have grant funds for that we're having to back fill with local dollars in order to get those projects built and off the books," He said.

"But it really seems to be a necessity, before more people get hurt," Conduff said.

He says the project could take up to six years before plans are approved. "Regionally and statewide it just doesn't rate as a high priority project for funding," Ekstedt said.

Ekstedt says there are approximately 4,400 vehicles that drive through Ahtanum Road each day.

"It's not that this project, Ahtanum Road is any more or any less significant than any other project in Yakima County," Ekstedt said.

For now the county will have to wait.

"This project that we're talking about specifically is on our six year Transportation program, is on the statewide transportation program, and it is included in the Regional Transportation Plan Update," Ekstedt said. "In order to move it from Plan, requires identified funding sources to actually construct it."

Anyone is welcome to add their input before their March 19th Regional Transportation Plan Update Hearing at the Yakima Valley Conference of Governments. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.

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