Plan to add more lanes to congested I-82 moving forward

YAKIMA, Wash. -- It's a long-term plan that's getting off the ground; cleaning up and getting access to the old Cascade Mill Site. The Department of Transportation has its newest plans for I-82.

The main highway in Yakima County sees tens of thousands of drivers each day. More drivers are making for more traffic and congestion. DOT is planning ahead in the efforts to develop the old Cascade Mill Site.

"This is the first section that really kind of comes up to be prioritized," said DOT Assistant Regional Administrator Brian White. "It really needs to be done."

These are the initial plans to extend I-82 from four lanes to six from North 1st Street to Yakima Avenue. A main reason is too many drivers on too little road. Last year, an average of almost 45,000 vehicles drove on I-82 every day. 20 years ago, that number was 10,000 less and the interstate is close to the same. The change would make it easier for drivers to get around.

"Smoother, fewer delays," White said.

It's a joint effort to develop the mill site for Yakima County, the city of Yakima, and the state DOT. It will cost nearly $150 million, but the joint effort should make it easier to pay for.

"When you have a project that addresses local needs and highway needs and the community's needs and you show partnerships, that always helps in getting a project funded," White said.

Yakima is focusing on environmental testing and cleanup. A $1 million grant could help improve city roads around the mill site.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for the city of Yakima and for the entire community to change that vacant saw mill into a really nice, attractive and employment center," Yakima Strategic Project Manager Joan Davenport said.

There is still a lot of work to be done before bringing the jobs in. This plan will take years. The three agencies hope to have the official plan drawn up by the end of the year.