Yakima pushes for new rules to cut back on unnecessary road work time

Yakima pushes for new rules to cut back on unnecessary road work time »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima is fed up with lanes blocked off for days, or even months, at a time. This can happen when private contractors are working on a project that can affect the public in a big way.

Frank Marez manages this Northwest Center on Tieton Drive. The nonprofit sits right outside of a project that left one lane blocked off for three months last summer.

"I had some concerns of our donors, our customers coming in and out about how's it going to distract them from coming in and out, because it did look kind of dangerous," said Frank Marez.

Crews from a private company were working to replace a water line.
The work could have been wrapped up more quickly, but interrupting traffic wasn't costing the contractors a dime. That's what Yakima wants to change.

The city wants to limit unnecessary delays or safety risks by charging a fee for every day the road is affected: 50 bucks a day to block off a lane.

Until now, crews only needed a permit for physically digging up the street. Yakima says this change is not just about money, it's about safety.

"I think everybody has, you know, turned a corner and all of a sudden there's a work crew right in front of them, right in their travel lane, and they hand no way of knowing that," said Debbie Cook, Yakima Director of Utilities and Engineering.

Until now, taxpayers were on the hook for repairs if private companies damaged the roads. Now crews will have to pay their part. Since last year, Yakima is set to spend at least $2 million a year on street repairs. Charging a $50 daily fee will help this spending go further.

"Well, like in everything, every business, every job, safety is first. And if it does help make it more safe, it would be better. If it makes it faster, more efficient, it would be better, too," said Frank Marez.

Allowing managers like Frank to keep their doors open and accessible to customers.

The change in rules will be voted on by city council in a few weeks.