Spokane City Councilman Jeff Colliton wants to shelve the Lincoln Street bridge project indefinitely.
Colliton plans to recommend to his colleagues Monday that the city complete the bridge design by February as planned but immediately halt all spending on the project after that.
“The original reasons for building the bridge several years ago - air quality and traffic congestion … - those conditions don’t seem to be there,” Colliton said Thursday from Philadelphia, where he was attending a National League of Cities convention.
Colliton said he also is concerned that the city’s plans to use $7.04 million in gas tax revenues to build the $36 million project threaten long-term road maintenance and arterial improvements. Historically, the city’s share of gas tax money has been used to fix streets as well as match state and federal dollars for larger projects.
“I’m not in any way going to jeopardize money for our streets for a bridge I’m not sure we need,” Colliton said.
Mayor Jack Geraghty, who opposes Colliton’s motion, said he thought Colliton should either recommend halting the project completely or moving ahead with it.
“I don’t see any reason to vote to shelve it, but it’s obviously a council decision,” Geraghty said. “Here’s this 11th-hour effort to derail this project. On balance, I think this project is beneficial to the community.”
Colliton said abandoning the bridge now would mean giving up all the state and federal dollars slated for the bridge. If the project is merely shelved, the city still could get the money later if the bridge proved necessary, he said.
Other council members said they hadn’t decided how they would vote on Colliton’s motion. Most said they wanted to spend the weekend thinking about the reports they received Thursday afternoon from the two sides of the citizens advisory committee studying the bridge.
“I’m in agony over this,” said Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes, adding she’s so torn by the project her vote could swing either way Monday.
“Today is crucial,” Councilwoman Roberta Greene said. “I’m going to mull it over.”
Council members Cherie Rodgers and Orville Barnes said they planned to make their decision Monday. Rodgers added that she still wants the public to vote on the bridge.
Mike Brewer said he probably will vote against the motion. “I’m leaning pretty heavily to going full-speed ahead” with the bridge.
The council heard Thursday from members of the citizens advisory committee. A formal presentation of the committee’s report will be given Monday at the regular City Council meeting.
Last month, the committee voted 9-8 in favor of building the bridge. The split vote prompted committee members to present both views to the council.
Committee member Doug Siddoway said the minority group heard nothing during the three meetings that proved the bridge was necessary.
Air quality and traffic data don’t indicate a need for the bridge, he said.
Siddoway also said the bridge plan isn’t “compatible with the pedestrian friendly downtown area envisioned” by the members of Spokane Horizons, the group charged with rewriting the city’s comprehensive plan.
Those opposed to the bridge called the project too costly and urged the council to support efforts to preserve the lower falls.
Committee members in favor of the bridge argued the project is part of an overall plan to handle increased traffic and reduce air quality problems.
“It will provide only one link in helping to achieve an efficiently operating system,” Mike Brixey said.
Bridge supporters also praised plans to expand Riverfront Park and increase pedestrian access to the falls if the project moves ahead.
Chairman Don Barbieri, who abstained from the committee’s November vote, urged the council to stick with the decisions made years ago to build the bridge.
“I respect both sides of this, but I believe the smartest thing to do is to honor our commitments,” Barbieri said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEXT If the City Council approves Colliton’s proposal on Monday, the bridge project will be halted. If not, design plans for the bridge will be completed in February and construction should start in the spring.