By the slimmest of margins, the citizens committee charged with reviewing the Lincoln Street bridge voted Monday in favor of moving ahead with the project.
The 9-8 vote will be sent as a recommendation to the Spokane City Council, which isn’t bound by the committee’s decision.
The closeness of the vote left each side saying it wants a chance to present its position to council members.
“This is obviously an issue that has a lot of emotion to it,” said Chairman Don Barbieri. “I wasn’t at all surprised by the vote.”
The four-hour, no-break meeting began with traffic engineers and air-quality experts explaining how the bridge might affect traffic counts and carbon monoxide readings.
It ended with Barbieri tallying ballots that asked committee members if they’d found a “fatal flaw” in the project’s original analysis.
Glenn Davis checked the “no fatal flaw” box, saying later he hadn’t learned anything that would change his support for the project.
“The basic information that came out is that we need a bridge,” Davis said. “I feel the Lincoln Street alignment would provide the greatest asset to the city.”
Rick Hastings - who’s leading an effort to have the falls declared a national monument - had the opposite reaction, saying he hadn’t learned anything that convinced him the bridge was necessary.
“There was no demonstration of need for the bridge,” Hastings said. “In the absence of that, I find no compelling reason to do the project.”
Two months ago, mounting controversy over the bridge caused the City Council to ask members of the citizens committee that chose the bridge design four years ago to thoroughly review the project. The council expanded the original 20-member committee to 34.
Mayor-elect John Talbott, who was on the original committee, chose not to participate in the meetings, saying he needed to be open-minded about the recommendation.
The group has met three times including Monday, hearing reports about the project from opponents, proponents and neutral parties.
Several committee members who favored building the bridge were taken with Monday night’s presentation from Bob Perron, the landscape architect hired to design an expanded Riverfront Park.
Under the current proposal, the park would grow by nearly two acres and the Centennial Trail would be extended to the west. The bridge would include pedestrian viewpoints, and Veteran’s Park also would be expanded.
“When I saw the enhancements to the park and what it would do to the gorge, I felt a great sense of peace,” said Tina Winecoop.
But opponents said they never heard anything that proved the bridge was needed. Experts brought in to talk about air quality and congestion said there were a number of alternatives - including a Lincoln Street bridge - that would alleviate those problems.
Opponents were asked to note on their ballots what they considered fatal flaws. Comments ranged from “no demonstrated need” to “negative impacts on north side neighborhoods.”
Many - like former state Sen. John Moyer - worried about the bridge’s effect on the lower falls.
“I think we need a national monument there,” Moyer said. “We should not disturb the falls with a bridge.”