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Is Relief Coming for Highway 395 Traffic Jams in Kennewick?

Another Highway 395 and Yelm traffic backup
(Townsquare media image)

Anytime between 3:30 and 6pm,  you’re likely to get stuck in one.  Especially coming up the hill from the Blue Bridge into Kennewick,  near 395 and Clearwater.

As the Tri-Cities has grown, so has it’s traffic.   Perhaps one of the most congested areas is just past the Blue Bridge, as you climb the hill towards Kennewick.   Often, traffic begins to slow halfway up the hill.   The first traffic light at the corner of 395 and Yelm of backs up over a quarter mile.

Then, motorists going both North and South often crawl at 10 mph between that intersection and the logjam that has become 395 and Clearwater.    Sometimes, it’s taken upwards of ten minutes to clear the zone, according to our driving experience.

And it’s not just during peak traffic hours.  Daytime drivers also experience extreme traffic congestion.     The adventure continues South to 395 and Kennewick Avenue,  then 395 and 10th and so on.   The same for drivers coming North as well.  While the area has always been busy,  it’s been in the last 3-4 years that the problem has grown quickly.

Over the last two, with the explosion of development in the Southridge area of Kennewick, it’s gotten even busier.

But there could be relief “down the road.”   The Washington State Department of Transportation is working on a study of the entire 395 corridor, from I-182 near Pasco in the North, to the intersection with I-82 South of Kennewick – a distance of seven miles of freeway.

According to the WSDOT website:

“The development of large land parcels is creating a need to address the impacts of increased traffic volumes on US 395 and the intersections. Future growth for the surrounding area will add more vehicles to the roadway, compounding the current issues with collisions and congestion.”

The website says several different alternatives are being considered, from short-term to long-term changes.   Continued study of the fast-growing development South of Kennewick will determine which is the best course of action.

Officials say short-term fixes are not a great solution if the are continues to grow over the next 20 years, because then, they will have to “start over”.  They will have to come up with more short-term fixes that won’t solve long-term traffic problems.

Highway 395 is considered one of the most heavily traveled, and important commerce roads in all of Eastern Washington.  The study includes looking at the 10 major intersections in that 7 mile stretch of road.

But for now, we will have to exercise patience to get through the growing number of cars and trucks using it every day.

 

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