Asotin County initiated engineering for Fleshman Way in 1992. With the Bryden Canyon Road in Lewiston, the corridor now provides Asotin County with access to the Snake River recreation areas, SR 129, Lewiston, the Lewiston Orchards area, and the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport.
Input originally received during the Fleshman Way project revealed public concern about the safety of the existing interchange with SR 129. Traffic counts estimate over 25,000 vehicles use the interchange daily with approximately 60 percent of those crossing the state line. It has been identified as a major bottleneck in the Fleshman Way – Southway Bridge – Bryden Canyon Road bi-state system.
In 1994, Asotin County obtained funds from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to study alternatives to improve the operation of the interchange. Subsequently in December 1995, a report was published that identified issues, evaluating various alternatives, and recommending interchange improvements.
After multiple attempts to secure funding for these improvements, Asotin County received an earmark to initiate preliminary engineering in 2006, as part of the SAFETEA-LU package. The previous year, the County received funding from WSDOT and the Palouse Regional Transportation Planning Organization to update the 10-year old study and facilitate new efforts to find funding for these improvements. This funding partnership acknowledges that this transportation challenge is significant to both the region and the state.
In January 2005 Asotin County hired a consulting firm to complete an alternatives analysis for the interchange. That study resulted in Asotin County Commissioners endorsement of two new alternatives that would remove or limit cross-turning movements as viable solutions for improving the operations of the interchange.
Two years later, J-U-B ENGINEERS, INC. was hired to expand on the results generated from the previous study, and lead the project through preliminary and final design. During this process the following public involvement activities helped steer the project towards a preferred design alternative:
On Nov. 29, 2007 major stakeholders of the Fleshman Way/SR-129 Interchange Safety Improvements project met in a partnering meeting to identify the substantive issues involved in this project and collectively develop a clear understanding of where we have been and a process for how we move forward.
Prior to the meeting, stakeholder interviews were conducted by the project consultant to ensure all interested and impacted parties were invited to participate in the process.
Participating stakeholders, including representatives from all area municipalities, WSDOT, Valley Transit, Army Corps of Engineers, Lewis Clark Valley MPO, the local bicycling community and Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers Office, committed to a partnership in the spirit of cooperation, with respect, integrity and candor to successfully and cooperatively complete the design of the Fleshman Way/SR-129 Interchange.
Through a selection process that included media advertising, interviews with interested parties, and review by the Asotin County Commissioners, a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed that represents a diverse range of interests and perspectives.
Beginning with the first workshop on Nov. 17, 2008, the CAC had a strong positive influence in identifying project goals, objectives, design evaluation and alternative preferences. The CAC was also effective in encouraging the community to provide input and get involved in this important project.
Turnout for the March 24, 2009 Public Open House was excellent. More than 110 members of the public signed in.
Brian Walsh from WSDOT conducted two roundabout presentation/Question and Answer sessions, both to capacity crowds.
Using the conceptual alternatives developed from the 2006 study as a starting point and relying on the local expertise of the CAC for guidance, the project team developed five alternatives to present to the public at the March 24, 2009 Open House. Additionally, comments received from the open house helped spur the development of a sixth alternative.
Public input provided the project team with the necessary feedback needed to narrow the focus to a range of “preferred” alternatives. Using a set of weighted criteria including safety improvements, environmental impacts, cost and bicycle/pedestrian use; the project team and CAC ranked the alternatives, the clear favorite being the new sixth alternative.
With the CAC’s support, the project team presented the preferred alternative for comment at two public presentations on Aug. 12, 2009. Sixty eight members of the public signed in and all comments received supported the preferred alternative. On Aug. 24, 2008 The Asotin County Commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with final design of the preferred alternative.