November 15, 1997 in Nation/World

Lincoln Bridge Costly Even If It’s Never Built Controversial Project Has Already Cost City $7 Million

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:cost

Scrapping plans for the Lincoln Street bridge wouldn’t keep taxpayers from spending millions of dollars on Spokane bridge projects.

At least $20 million must be spent on bridge repairs and replacement even if the proposed bridge isn’t built, city officials said Friday.

And that doesn’t count the $7 million already spent on the Lincoln Street bridge project, including $2.8 million to buy the former Salty’s restaurant site and $3.2 million on a design contract with CH2M Hill.

A citizens committee is considering whether the original reasons for building the Lincoln Street bridge remain valid. Members could make a recommendation to the City Council as early as Monday.

Regardless of what the committee advises - and what the City Council decides to do - money must be spent on Spokane’s dilapidated downtown bridges, said Brad Blegen, Lincoln Street bridge project manager.

The Post Street Bridge must be torn down, Blegen said. Rebuilding the span at its current location would cost at least $12 million.

The city also must replace the deck on the Monroe Street Bridge, which will cost between $8 million and $10 million. Officials don’t know where they’ll get the money for that work.

Under the current plan, the city would build the Lincoln Street bridge and then turn its attention to the Monroe Street Bridge repairs.

If the Lincoln Street bridge isn’t built, city officials must decide which project is more urgent - a new Post Street Bridge or a new deck on Monroe.

“Something has to happen to the Post Street Bridge. Something has to happen to the Monroe Street Bridge,” he said. “We’d have a hard decision.”

If the council chooses not to build the Lincoln Street bridge, the city might have to repay some of the money already spent on the project, Blegen said. About $5.6 million of the $7 million forked out so far comes from state and federal sources.

The city couldn’t use the $27 million in state and federal money for a different project, Blegen said.

City gas tax money slated for the new bridge could be used for different projects, including street repairs, Blegen said.

The city gets about $1.4 million a year in gas tax money from the state for capital projects. The state has agreed to loan the city $5.6 million toward the bridge, which would be repaid over 20 years with gas tax dollars.

Using that money to repave streets would barely make a dent in Spokane’s road repair crisis, said City Manager Bill Pupo. Instead, that money is better spent matching grant money for the bridge, he said.

“You have to have a local contribution,” Pupo said.

The council must look for new sources of money to maintain the roads, he said. A 2.3-cent-per-gallon local gas tax increase failed at the polls and Republican legislators recently made it clear they don’t intend to raise gas taxes statewide.

The city probably will have to make cuts to come up with more money for streets in 1999, Pupo said.

While the city struggles to find ways to pay for street repairs and bridge replacement, the citizens committee has met twice to discuss the future of the Lincoln Street project.

“We’ve been 360 degrees around the subject,” said Chairman Don Barbieri.

Two months ago, the City Council asked members of the citizens committee that chose the bridge design to review the project.

The task before the reunited and expanded committee is to decide if there is some “fatal flaw” that would convince members that the bridge is no longer needed, Barbieri said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Dollars for bridges

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Talk to us If you have questions about the Lincoln Street bridge proposal, we’d like to help you find answers. Send questions by mail to Bridge Questions, Spokesman-Review newsroom, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane 99210; by fax to 459-5482; or by e-mail to kristinaj@spokesman.com. Or call in your question to Cityline by dialing 458-8800 on a touch-tone phone and then pressing 9884. Please leave your name and a daytime phone number so a reporter can call you back if necessary.

2. What’s next The Lincoln Street Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee will meet Monday at 5 p.m. in the Champion’s Room of the Spokane Arena, 720 W. Mallon.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Talk to us If you have questions about the Lincoln Street bridge proposal, we’d like to help you find answers. Send questions by mail to Bridge Questions, Spokesman-Review newsroom, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane 99210; by fax to 459-5482; or by e-mail to kristinaj@spokesman.com. Or call in your question to Cityline by dialing 458-8800 on a touch-tone phone and then pressing 9884. Please leave your name and a daytime phone number so a reporter can call you back if necessary.

2. What’s next The Lincoln Street Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee will meet Monday at 5 p.m. in the Champion’s Room of the Spokane Arena, 720 W. Mallon.


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