The east side of downtown Spokane would make a dramatic change under a proposal to shift traffic using Trent Avenue onto a new extension of Riverside.
The goal is to promote a more pedestrian-friendly Riverpoint campus, the Spokane home for Washington State and Eastern Washington universities.
Construction would start in 2009 or 2010, if the plan gets the go-ahead from the Spokane City Council on Monday night.
City officials have said the development of the University District, which includes Riverpoint and Gonzaga University, is essential to improving the economy of the region.
“It’s part of the complete package of the U District plan,” said City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin. “We need to get moving on it.”
Although most of the classrooms on the campus currently are north of Spokane Falls Boulevard, which turns into Trent, some buildings are south, where much of the universities’ growth is planned.
Shifting through-traffic to Riverside “helps take a highway out of the middle of the U District campus and creates more of a campus feel,” said City Councilman Mike Allen, who is EWU’s director of corporate and foundation relations.
The $15 million project will be funded mostly with federal and state money, said Public Works Director Dave Mandyke.
Riverside currently ends a block east of Division. Extending it under the Hamilton Street bridge will require the city to purchase several properties and force the relocations of a few businesses. At least a portion of a warehouse owned by WSU on the southeast corner of Riverside and Division likely would be torn down, Mandyke said.
The new two-lane route would parallel railroad tracks until east of Hamilton, where it would head northeast until connecting with Trent just beyond the Union Gospel Mission. The lanes would be separated to save room for a future light rail system.
The old sections of Trent and Spokane Falls west of the connection would remain, but traffic is expected to be lighter.
Another road would be built between Spokane Falls and Riverside through campus to help divert downtown-bound traffic that originated from Hamilton Street.
The final design would be subject to approval of the city’s Design Review Board.
Phil Altmeyer, executive director of the Union Gospel Mission, said the project may allow the mission to create more of a campus feel, as well. That’s because some nearby streets would be vacated.
“The city’s done an excellent job of working with the local landowners,” Altmeyer said.
Ron Brown, who owns Brown Building Materials, said his business might be helped by improved access.
“We’re pretty close to the center of town and people don’t realize it,” he said. “It would be nice to have the traffic going by.”