Cowlitz County planners say the intersection at Industrial and Oregon ways will need overpasses to ease vehicle and rail congestion and cope with growth along Longview’s industrial corridor.
At an open house Wednesday in Kelso, the county presented four potential layouts for the new intersection, all of which include road overpasses above existing and future rail lines. The new intersection will extend from the approaches of the Lewis and Clark Bridge to as far north as Alabama Street.
Two of the options are fully elevated, with the highest point at the intersection about 30 feet above the ground. The other two are partially elevated and keep some lanes on the ground. One of the plans includes an elevated roundabout.
Claude Sakr, project engineer, said the next step is to determine cost estimates for the options and continue to evaluate whether they address all the purposes and needs for the intersection.
“That’s really the cornerstone, the bedrock of everything when it comes to evaluating or developing alternatives,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
Initially the county considered nine options for the intersection. It eliminated five because they didn’t relieve congestion and included significant train interruptions.
One major factor was whether the interruptions would affect emergency response times.
Sakr said the county will also account for the Port of Longview’s plan to extend its Industrial rail corridor across the intersection to Barlow Point to appeal to more industries.
The project will need approval from the Federal Highway Administration, the state Department of Transportation and the county Public Works and Planning Division. A draft environmental impact statement will be released in fall 2017, and construction is expected to begin sometime in 2020.
The plan is to address worsening congestion and increasing vehicles. Sakr said by 2040 traffic volumes are expected to grow by 60 to 70 percent, causing the intersection to have long backups.
The state identified the intersection as needing upgrades for safety purposes in 1968, but it got much-needed support when the Legislature allocated $85 million to the SR 432 project last year. An additional $5 million will be provided from local, state and federal funds, Commissioner Mike Karnofski said.
“I think the project’s turning out really well,” Karnofski said. “The nine options were pretty varied so people had an opportunity to comment on those. ... I’m really comfortable with the four options they came up with.”
The intersection averages more than nine crashes per year. Congestion at intersections is linked to increased collisions, according to the county.
The county will receive the first batch of state funds, $1.5 million, in the 2017-2018 biennium. Another $14.5 million will be disbursed in 2019, the largest chunk — of $65 million — in 2021, and the remaining $4 million in 2023.