Traffic Pipeline Millwood Might Have Found A Way To Stall The Development To The North That Is Causing Traffic Problems On Argonne Road

(From Saturday, February 18, 1995 Valley Voice:) Millwood Town Councilman Dan Mork’s name was misspelled in a story in Thursday’s Valley Voice.

Two rivers run through Millwood. One, the Spokane, is a community asset, providing water for the local paper mill, a landing pad for passing ducks and a scenic stretch for tired eyes.

The other, a daily torrent of cars streaming down Argonne Road, is a community headache.

More than 60,000 automobiles travel through Millwood on Argonne every day. They split the town of 1,700 in two, leading to increased traffic accidents and frustrating town officials.

Until recently, the problem has been out of the town’s hands.

Appeals to county commissioners for a halt to development in the unincorporated areas north of Millwood have been rejected.

Now, town leaders have a chance to control, or at least stall, some of that development themselves and maybe slow the increasing volume of the river of cars on Argonne.

They’re debating what they should do.

The opportunity has presented itself in the form of a sewer pipe a developer wants to hang on the Argonne bridge over the Spokane River.

Ted Gunning has proposed the pipe as a way to extend the county sewer system to his Northwoods development, which is north of Millwood. The line would allow about 1,500 existing homes in the Northwoods and Pasadena Park areas, where there is no sewer service, to come off septic tanks.

That’s highly desirable, said Jim Legat of the county utilities department. The county wants to take as many septic tanks as possible off line in order to protect the aquifer, the county’s main source of drinking water.

But the project has future implications as well.

“They want us to make it a little bigger for future use, so they could serve other sewer basins in that area,” said Joel Lee of Metro Engineering, the firm that is designing the project for Gunning.

Millwood Mayor Jeanne Batson doesn’t like that idea.

Batson has been outspoken about development north of her town recently, saying county officials have not considered the traffic problems in her town when approving those developments.

She asked county commissioners to stop approving new subdivisions north of the river until a new underpass could be built at Argonne Road and Trent Avenue.

The underpass is expected to improve traffic flow in the area by allowing cars to go under the railroad tracks at the intersection. Now, cars must stop for trains and they usually back up into Millwood.

The underpass project may take two years to construct.

But county commissioners have said no to her request, leaving town officials frustrated.

Enter the sewer project.

Under the state Shoreline Management Act, the town has the authority to regulate construction on the Argonne bridge, said Doug Pineo of the state Department of Ecology.

That means the town council must approve the sewer extension project.

But the opportunity has caused more consternation among town officials than relief.

Batson and Councilman Dan Mort aren’t sure what, if anything, the town can or will do.

“I guess we can’t really stop them,” Batson said. “Well, I don’t really know. I’ve had two opinions: one of them says yes we can; one of them says no we can’t. We’re going to see what we can do about it.”

Mort is unsure, too.

“I don’t know what we would do,” he said. “We need to make some pretty prudent judgments on this one. There’s a lot of building going on out there. Municipalities have to be careful and think these things through.”

Pineo said the town is required to make its decision on the project based on the impact it is likely to have on the north bank of the river.

Traffic on Argonne shouldn’t be a consideration, he said.

Pineo conceded, though, that the town could deny the shoreline permit for whatever reason it saw fit and force Gunning to appeal.

“It could very well wind up in front of the Shoreline Management Board,” Pineo said.

That process could take six months to more than a year, he said. That could buy part of the time it would take to build the underpass.

Lee said he hopes that won’t happen. The current plan is the safest, cheapest way to provide sewers to the north side of the river, he said.

Otherwise, his firm will have to consider running the pipe under the river bed, he said.

“There’s nothing out of the ordinary about this project,” Lee said. “Environmentally, it’s sound.”

The town will hold a public hearing on the proposal Feb. 21.

Batson said she’ll wait until then before making a recommendation to her council about what she thinks the town should do.

“I’m not going to say it at this time,” she said. “I just don’t know.”

ILLUSTRATION: Two Photos (1 Color)

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