Construction on Highway 97/Fort Road Intersection - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Construction on Highway 97/Fort Road Intersection

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TOPPENISH, Wash.--The intersection of U.S. Highway 97 and Fort Road is considered one of the most dangerous intersections in Yakima County.  To improve it, the Department of Transportation is installing new traffic lights and adding two new lanes.  The intersection has seen at least 26 accidents in the last four years.

"Every day between 11:30 [a.m.] and 1:15 [p.m.] it is jam-packed with cars," said Pearlanna Justice, an employee at the Yakamart Gas Station at the corner of the intersection.  "It's very difficult to get in and out of traffic."

Stuck between Legends Casino and downtown Toppenish, the intersection can get pretty busy.  Accidents are bound to happen with cars going in every direction.  By adding new through and passing lanes, the Department of Transportation hopes to make it easier--and safer--for people to pass through.

"Anytime you can improve traffic flow and improve safety at the same time, everybody benefits," said Bob Hooker, Project Engineer for the D.O.T.

Though the traffic is worse right now, commuters think the construction will benefit the area.

"Right now it is [bad]," said Vincent Selan, a Granger resident.  "But it's gonna help us in a month, two months down the road."

"People [would] be more likely to come off the highway and shop here if they don't think they have to sit through a lot of traffic," said Justice.

The $450,000 project is only part of a three-section project that will make traveling in Toppenish easier.   There's also construction at Branch Road and the intersection of State Route 22 and First Avenue.   The D.O.T. estimates the total cost at 2.3 million dollars, but they are confident taxpayers will be satisfied.

"The projected outcome is definitely going to be well-received," said Hooker.

The D.O.T. says they will be working throughout the night to install the new traffic lights by Friday.   They should finish the project by mid-September.