Spokane County commissioners will shelve plans for a new commuter road in the south Valley for at least another year.
The move may signal the demise of the fourlane arterial that county engineers think would alleviate traffic on Sprague Avenue and Interstate 90.
Commissioners voted unanimously last week to withhold any funding for the $18 million South Valley Arterial until 1996.
The action buys commissioners, two of whom joined the board just this year, time to re-analyze the project and decide its fate, said Commissioner Steve Hasson, long a critic of the arterial.
“Hopefully, between now and ‘97, we will have a more definitive statement on it,” Hasson said.
Hasson is the only current commissioner who was on the board last year when former commissioners Pat Mummey and Skip Chilberg voted to approve the road.
The arterial would run between Thierman and University roads on an old railroad right-of-way that lies parallel to and south of Fourth Avenue.
Hasson voted against the project and vowed to overturn it if he could. He may get his chance.
Commissioner Phil Harris, who joined the commission this year, has hinted that he could be convinced to scrap the road.
Harris said last week he has several concerns about the arterial, including the fact that drivers would only be able to get on and off the arterial at certain cross streets.
That would cut the Valley in two and disrupt the traffic flow, he said.
But Harris said the immediate decision to postpone funding was one of logistics.
He and new Commissioner George Marlton need to be briefed on the project, Harris said, as does new county engineer Bill Johns.
Johns is replacing Ron Hormann, who retired last week.
“We’ve just got a lot going on right now,” Harris said. “We just need to slow things down.”
Commissioners will evaluate the project and decide if they want to move forward with it or do something else to create another east-west route in the south Valley, he said.
“We’re looking at other options,” Harris said.
One of them is teaming with the city of Spokane to build a commuter link between the south Valley and Spokane’s South Hill.
City and county officials are toying with the idea of connecting the various segments of 44th Avenue to form such a road, Hasson said.
Hormann, who was heavily involved in the arterial’s planning, said he hopes commissioners decide to move forward with the project.
He said the road would provide a convenient alternative to I-90, where nearly 100,000 cars travel daily.
“That corridor is a very vital corridor for this community,” Hormann said. “People would use it. You can easily pull 40,000 vehicles off the freeway with something like this.”
In addition, the federal Transportation Improvement Board has earmarked nearly $10 million for that specific project, he said.
“If they drop it, that money will go away and will probably never come back this way,” Hormann said.