Fewer changes along southern section of proposed north-south freeway mean fewer residents surprised, angry
Thursday’s open house on the proposed north-south freeway drew fewer people and far less angst than a similar meeting last week.
While the first meeting drew a crowd of more than 500 mostly furious people, Thursday’s gathering attracted about 300 who chatted amicably with engineers and neighbors.
State Department of Transportation officials had hoped this time would be different. They extended the hours of the open house from two to four and a half, and made engineers easier to find, posting one next to nearly every aerial photo and map.
“There was such a big showing last time,” said Jerry Lenzi of the DOT.
Last week’s meeting focused on the stretch of freeway between Hawthorne Road and U.S. Highway 395, where recently proposed changes to the freeway route surprised and angered residents.
Thursday’s meeting centered on the stretch between Hawthorne and the Spokane River - a route that has varied only slightly in the past few years.
That may be the reason people weren’t as upset, said Keith Martin, project engineer. “The changes weren’t as radical.”
Many residents living along the southerly stretch just want to know when they can expect to see asphalt.
“Don’t get us all excited and then not build it,” Patti Moore said.
“The freeway’s been going to happen for years,” her husband, Bill said. “We want to know this is it.”
DOT officials can’t say for sure, but recent pledges of state money are turning 50 years of wishful talk about a freeway into serious discussions. The two meetings were designed to find out how residents feel about proposed changes to the route.
The commonly anticipated route follows railroad right-of-way alongside the Market-Greene corridor. The proposed roadway then angles west at Hawthorne and Market, going south of Northwood Middle School to link with U.S. 395 near Wandermere Golf Course.
New maps propose changes to the freeway’s alignment near the north end, moving the freeway north of Northwood to run parallel to Garden Avenue.
Other changes include moving the freeway slightly west between Francis and Hawthorne.
While Thursday’s meeting didn’t generate the same fury as last week’s, residents did share similar concerns. Many wanted the freeway project to take their house, not leave them standing next to it.
“I’d rather have them buy it. I don’t want to live next to it,” said Nora Amicarella. “I want the freeway, but take my house.”