Pasco looking to replace Lewis Street tunnel with overpass

The City of Pasco is working towards a new overpass connecting the east side of the city to the downtown area. It’ll replace the Lewis Street tunnel near State Route 397.

It was built in 1937 with a bridge across the BNSF Railway facilities. Since then, the structure has seen better days.

“It’s done its job and kind of finished with its job a few decades ago,” said Dave Zabell, Pasco City Manager. “We’re ready for replacement.”

The city has budgeted $32 million for the project. It would be an overpass over the railroad track, replacing the use of the tunnel.

Zabell said this project has been on the council’s agenda for two decades.

“This is a safety improvement. This is an access improvement,” he said. “It’s aesthetics, it’s mobility, circulation.”

He said rebar is showing on the bridge and the current walkway isn’t wheelchair accessible.

“We’ve made some band-aids on it, but it’s beyond band-aid,” Zabell explained. “There are structural issues that are starting to demonstrate themselves right now.”

Most of the money is locked in. Here’s a breakdown of the funds:

City of Pasco: $4.8 million
Connecting Washington Partnership: $15 million
Federal Grant: $3.8 million
Transportation Improvement Board: $5 million
Washington State Request: $3.4 million

According to the city council’s agenda report, the money from the Transportation Improvement Board is “not secured yet.” Additionally, Zabell said a request has been sent to the legislature.

“Every year we delay this the shortfall gets bigger,” he said. “We’re hoping to really plug that gap here in the next month or two through the legislature and get this project rolling this fall.”

To go with the overpass, the city is putting money into Downtown Pasco. Upgrades will include color, lighting, seating, landscaping, metal panels and decorative crosswalks.

Zabell said the overpass would take about two years to finish.

“Areas east of the railroad tracks have significantly grown over the past couple of decades,” Zabell said. “It’s a brand new gateway into downtown Pasco.”

The current tunnel would remain open during the construction. Once the overpass is finished, Zabell said the tunnel and bridge would be “abandoned in place.” It’ll most likely be filled, but some historical things like the railings will be preserved.

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