The Hermiston City Council on Monday voted to invest $50,000 on a study to determine the best location for new bridge over the Umatilla River.
Plans for a second bridge over the river have been in place for 20 years and with the region continuing to experience growth along with increased traffic congestion, the project is seen as a priority.
In a report written for the council, Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan noted that recent and future residential growth in the city of Umatilla is heavily concentrated along Powerline Road. Regional commercial activity attracts heavy traffic into Hermiston. The city has seen 15 percent population growth in the past decade and is projected to reach 23,000 residents by 2030.
Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said if Hermiston continues to grow as projected, “we’re going to have to find some alternative routes to get around our city.”
The study will look at two locations for a potential new bridge – Punkin Center Road or Elm Avenue. The study is expected to single out one preferable alternative, while also providing preliminary cost estimates and conceptual designs. The plan would then be to begin work toward securing large-scale state and federal funding for eventual construction sometime within the next 10 to 20 years.
The study will cost $130,000. Because the project will have regional benefits, Umatilla County has agreed to pay $50,000 and the city of Umatilla will pay the remaining $30,000.
Drotzmann and Councilor Nancy Peterson were concerned about which partner would have the final say in picking the location of the bridge.
“It’s kind of like buying a pony,” said Peterson. “Where are you going to keep it? Who’s yard are you going to put it in? Who’s going to decide where it goes?”
Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith said all three partners would have input, but ultimately the city of Hermiston would have to decide which location for the bridge would go into its overall transportation plan.
“But we will have to work together to figure these things out,” he said. Morgan added that all the city was committing to at this point was paying its share of the study.
“I just want to make sure we all understand our roles and responsibilities,” said Drotzmann.
Councilor Jackie Myers said it’s time to move forward with the study.
“This project has been on the radar for 20 years,” she said. “Those same two spots. So, now they just need to flesh out the technical work of which spot is going to be the best.”