The city of Hermiston is hoping to leverage some of its American Rescue Plan dollars to push the timeline up for a road project that would create a new east-west corridor through town.
Dubbed GRATE, which stands for Gettman Road/Railway Alternative Transportation Enhancement, the project is divided into four phases totaling $8.6 million.
The first phase would pave the existing portion of Gettman Road, which runs along the southwestern edge of town near Armand Larive Middle School.
The second phase would extend Gettman to Highway 395, creating a new connection between highways 395 and 207. The third phase would replace and widen a bridge on Southeast 10th Street, and the fourth would rebuild and widen Northeast 10th Street, creating a better route north to Highway 730.
The GRATE project has been listed in the city’s capital improvement plan as a wish list item without a defined timeline, but Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said the city is seeing an opportunity to tap into several new funding sources, including American Rescue Plan stimulus funding from the state and the Community Project Funding that will allow members of Congress to earmark funds for local projects.
Congressional delegates and state legislators have been reaching out to cities in their districts, Morgan said, and “this is one we’ve been pressing as our top priority.”
The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners, Hermiston School District leaders and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have written letters of support for the project, noting it will relieve congestion in town. The CTUIR wrote that extending Gettman Road would make it easier to plan efficient routes for the HART bus system run by Kayak Public Transit in Hermiston.
For the school district, Armand Larive Middle School and Desert View Elementary School are right off Gettman Road. But a provision of building Armand Larive was that the district could not send school buses down Gettman Road until it is paved, which sends buses on a long detour that increases traffic near Hermiston High School at its busiest times of day.
“Not only does this additional mileage increase greenhouse gas emissions, but the crossing which they must utilize routes them through the heavily congested intersection of (South First Street and Highland Avenue),” Superintendent Tricia Mooney wrote.
Paving and extending Gettman would create a straight shot from the Mid Columbia Bus company barn on Airport Road to the two schools.
Morgan said the southeast area where Gettman Road is located continues to grow, and has capacity for 300 to 400 more single-family homes, without counting a large acreage off Highway 207 and Feedville Road that developers through the years have expressed interest in turning into a subdivision of up to 1,000 homes.
“There’s a pretty significant potential for housing growth there,” he said.
The GRATE project could help support that growth, he said, and relieve congestion on Highland Avenue and Elm Avenue, the city’s other east-west corridors that run the length of town.