US Highway 12 expansion heralded

Work on U.S. Highway 12 was celebrated today by myriad lawmakers and officials.

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WALLA WALLA - The latest effort to widen U.S. Highway 12 was officially celebrated today.

Held under the new overpass at Myra Road, the event marked the near-completion of two years of work to make nearly 10 miles of the road a four-lane divided highway from the west edge of Walla Walla to the vicinity of Frenchtown.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., lauded the efforts of local leaders to unite public and private interests to get behind the drive to widen the road.

"This community has been absolutely amazing," Murray told the crowd of about 60 people gathered for the ceremony, which included a ribbon-cutting and group photo.

Murray was preceded and followed by a parade of state and local officials who spoke about how the latest phase of work will increase safety on the highway and aid economic development in the Walla Walla Valley.

Jim Kuntz, Port of Walla Walla executive director, said the bulk of funding, $42.5 million, came from state funds raised by a 9.5 cent a gallon gasoline tax approved by voters serveral years ago. Another $13.3 million came from federal funds and local contributions totaled $160,000.

Work on the project began in the spring of 2008 after the Washington state Department of Transportation awarded the contract for construction to Apollo Inc. of Kennewick.

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