The city of Spokane may not need that slice of Steve and Leslie Ronald’s land for the Lincoln Street bridge after all.
During a Thursday briefing session devoted to the $36 million project, engineers told the City Council they recently redesigned the bridge, moving it east about six feet on the south bank of the Spokane River.
That means the 200 square feet of the Ronalds’ riverfront land that engineers last month said they needed likely won’t be necessary.
“I asked the engineers to see if there was a way to move the bridge over to avoid the (Ronald’s) property,” said Brad Blegen, the city’s project manager. “They concluded that there is.”
The city will need a 20-to 40-foot easement on the Ronalds’ property while the bridge is being built.
Leslie Ronald said Thursday she was too numb to be shocked by anything the city says about the land. “Absolutely nothing surprises me anymore,” she said.
The Ronalds planned to build a seven-story condominium complex on the 1.34-acre property, but the council voted to condemn the site in 1995 to save the view of the falls from the downtown Spokane library.
A jury last April decided the couple’s land was worth about $2.184 million, and the city’s appeal of the ruling is pending.
When the Ronalds learned that the city might need a piece of their land to build the bridge, their attorney said the city would have to buy the entire site or get none of it.
Also Thursday, engineers updated the council on the bridge’s design.
Jim Correll of CH2MHill said engineers have been working to “improve the river gorge experience” and enhance views of the lower Spokane Falls.
“Right now, the views of the upper and lower falls are very limited,” he said. He added the river gorge was historical “an important encampment area for the Salish Indian Tribes.
“It has a tremendous cultural heritage, and we plan to celebrate that heritage.”
Later, Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers - who is part Blackfeet Indian - questioned how a bridge could ever enhance the river gorge.
“The best project would be no bridge,” Rodgers said. “My ancestors would roll over in their graves to see a big piece of concrete where salmon used to jump.”
Rodgers also questioned engineers’ contention the bridge was needed to reduce carbon monoxide levels. She produced graphs showing that Spokane carbon monoxide violations dropped from 403 in 1976 to two in 1996.
“Granted, the record shows we made tremendous strides with carbon monoxide levels,” Blegen said. “But we still have a hot spot” downtown due to traffic congestion.
City officials have maintained the bridge project will ease traffic flow through downtown by creating a couplet. Plans call for the four-lane, one-way bridge to align with Lincoln Street, carrying northbound traffic from downtown to Sharp Avenue. Eventually, the Monroe Street bridge would be one-way southbound.
Blegen stressed there were other pressing reasons to build the bridge besides air quality, especially the dilapidated conditions of the Monroe Street and Post Street bridges.
“We need the Lincoln Street bridge completed so we can detour traffic off Monroe so we can replace the deck,” he said.
Design elements discussed Thursday include: Moving Bridge Avenue north and expanding Veteran’s Court Park.
Improving access to the Spokane Library by creating a library access lane on Main Avenue.
Building four pedestrian observation points on the Lincoln Street bridge.
Removing the Post Street bridge and replacing it with the pedestrian-only Centennial Trail bridge, which will link the trail to the north side of the river.
Incorporating art into both bridges that “celebrates the Salish cultural heritage.” That could include special lighting along the bridge - a reference to one translation of the Native American word Spokane, which is “Children of Light.”
Engineers told the council that about $8 million has been spent on the bridge so far, including the design costs and the purchase of the former Salty’s restaurant site for $2.8 million.
Mayor Jack Geraghty said he planned to reconvene the citizens advisory committee that worked on the bridge project in the early 1990s. He added the council needs to decide soon whether to move ahead with building the bridge.
“If we proceed on the road we’re proceeding now, from a cost standpoint, there’s no turning back,” he said.