Leftover cash from underpass work; council to weigh spending options

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima is an unusual position after finishing up one of its major construction projects. There's money left over from the work on the MLK underpass. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. KIMA learned what might happen to that money.

For a city with a lot of expenses, extra money never hurts.

Yakima has almost $650,000 left over from the Lincoln and MLK underpass projects.

The question now is how to spend it.

"The only thing we would strongly recommend is from a public safety standpoint, the construction of the elevated sidewalk," said Yakima City Manager, Tony O'Rourke.

Right now, the Lincoln underpass doesn't have one. Pedestrians walk next to traffic. Flexible markers are the only things separating people from cars. And, some cars have already rammed them.

Harvey Taylor walks the Lincoln underpass every few days.

"It would be a good idea. They can't give the money back to taxpayers, might as well put it on something useful."

A sidewalk is one of several options. It would cost roughly $250,000. That would leave about $400,000 for other projects, like public art.

Yakima has spent about $100,000 on the Bins of Light art project that would go above the Lincoln underpass. To finish that, the artists need another $350,000.

Yakima City Councilmember, Rick Ensey, opposes the idea.

"We have too many needs in the City of Yakima and art is not at the top of the list."

Ensey likes the idea of a sidewalk for the Lincoln underpass and spending the rest on N. 1st Street.

Another option? Paying down the outstanding loans for the underpass projects.

The leftover money came from BNSF Railway. And, Yakima leaders say it can be spent on anything. That leaves City Council in the unusual position of deciding what to do with it, instead of how to come up with it.

City leaders will go over the options at the next council meeting on Tuesday.