Federal dollars could green light MLK underpass construction

Federal dollars could green light MLK underpass construction »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- The drive West through the Lincoln Underpass is now a smooth one but the same can't be said about the drive East on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Plans to build an identical underpass on MLK ended up on the back burner. Yakima just didn't have the money.

But federal transportation dollars could now change that.

"One step has been taken, Monday another will be taken and if that is in our favor then city council will be in the position of saying yes or no," said Yakima City Spokesperson Randy Beehler.

Which means the city doesn't have to take the $5.5 million that is likely to be offered. It's money from the federal government that is offered for regional projects.

Yakima is a strong contender for the money because the project is essentially "shovel-ready."

"We have a project that is completely designed. It's gone through all the environmental process. We have funding that's available to finish it off. It's a really unique opportunity," said Beehler.

If the money comes in this could mean construction would begin quickly and change the current landscape.

"It's going to be more complicated to get in and out of our facility. But in the long run it's going to be good because the traffic will move smoother," said Tammy Meeks, who works near the proposed underpass project.

Neighbors and business owners said frequent train crossings create a lot of traffic in this area and having an underpass for cars to flow under will provide needed relief.

"I think it would do this area a lot better. I mean this was a rough road," said Verna Dan, who lives nearby.

Now, Yakima city leaders will wait to hear if the MLK underpass project will get the green light after years in the planning.

The next step is for leaders from the Yakima Valley Conference of Governments to decide whether to approve the money for the project.

Several other county road projects are also being considered.

That decision will come Monday.