A proposed couplet system that would ease east-west traffic congestion through the Spokane Valley continues to gather support.
Representatives from businesses along the Sprague corridor met with county engineers behind closed doors Wednesday and came away from the 2-1/2 hour meeting impressed with what they heard and saw.
Residents at a public meeting Wednesday night also were impressed.
“The timing is right, the project looks right, we need this,” said Martin Burnette, the spokesman for the Spokane Valley Business Association.
The next step in the proposed project is drafting an environmental impact statement, which county engineers expect to be completed this winter.
While at times appearing not to completely endorse the project, Burnette said the group was pleased with the way the county has handled the alternative to the South Valley Arterial project.
The SVBA filed a lawsuit to halt the previous project because it carried traffic away from businesses and too close to the Dishman Hills Natural Area.
This time, county engineers are carefully collecting input from residents and businesses early in the process to avoid another lawsuit. That’s one of the most attractive things about this project, Burnette said.
“This is not a minor change from a bad project,” Burnette said. “We feel it does effectively address delivering people.”
Under the couplet proposal, four lanes would carry traffic west along Sprague Avenue between Thierman and University. Additional lanes could be used for bicycle and transit lanes, engineers said.
Drivers would travel east on a yet-to-be-constructed four-lane stretch along portions of First and Second avenues.
Construction of the $16-million project could begin as early as the summer of 1999, said Jim Haines, project engineer.
However, the project faces several obstacles.
The county would have to widen First Avenue between Thierman and Park by about 50 feet, forcing it to buy some property from homeowners. The road would then jog slightly south, through part of Rose Haven Mobile Park.
Cutting the road through the mobile home park at 205 S. Pines would be no easy task. Unicume Investments, Inc., which owns the 96-space mobile home park, was one of 18 plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit in 1994 to block the arterial project.
Unicume Investments worried the arterial project would disrupt the mobile home park’s utilities. The road also would have wiped out its recreational room and laundry room.
“The last time through, it literally destroyed the business,” said Dan Jurgens, a Unicume Investments property manager.
Engineers estimate the county would need to acquire about a third of the park to build the eastbound lanes for the couplet.
As of Wednesday, engineers had not contacted Unicume, Jurgens said.
Unicume Investments plans to wait until engineers go over the couplet plans with them before deciding whether to support the project, Jurgens said. But convincing the company to uproot several of its residents - many of whom are elderly - won’t be easy.
“No matter what you do, it’s going to be tough on business,” Jurgens said.