A sure sign of spring has arrived: Crews have shifted from plowing snow to sweeping roadways.
Now that most of the snow has melted, roads in the region are looking rather drab. As a result, most of the road departments in North Idaho and Spokane County are deploying their sweepers to prevent the nasty dust clouds that can form when cars or trucks drift off the pavement.
“When we spread gravel on the roads, cars and trucks drive over it, pulverize it and pound it to dust,” said Al Gilson, Washington State Department of Transportation spokesman. “We want to clean it before it gets airborne and becomes an air pollution problem.”
Gilson reminded motorists to be watch for directional arrows along Interstate 90 as they drive near Spokane. Crews will start in the downtown area of Interstate 90 and gradually move to outlying state highways, he said.
“But that could change,” Gilson said. “If it starts snowing again, they will stop sweeping and go back to snow and ice work.”
In Spokane, crews have started sweeping the city’s main thoroughfares, city streets spokeswoman Ann Deasy said.
“Then we will re-sweep the arterials and clean the arterial sidewalks,” she said. “We will begin residential street sweeping in April.”
Train tunnel begins
Starting today, crews will start the massive project to build a train tunnel along Market Street that will eventually operate below the North Spokane Freeway.
It won’t be a tunnel in the traditional sense. Crews won’t dig below the ground. Instead, construction workers will place 444 prefabricated concrete arches that will be connected on site, Gilson said.
“After they are all done, we fill in dirt and the freeway will go over the top,” Gilson said.
The Burlington Northern Sante Fe rail line only has one track, but the 1,330-foot tunnel will be wide enough to add another line. The work begins today near Magnesium and Hawthorne roads and the $17.29 million project is expected to take two building seasons to complete, Gilson said.
The train tunnel is the sixth of eight jobs for the U.S. 395/North Spokane Corridor freeway project that was funded by the Nickel Gas Tax enacted in 2003.
The plan calls for opening the first stretch of freeway from Francis to Farwell Road in 2009. When all eight projects are complete in about 2011, the freeway will link U.S. 395 from Francis Avenue to the existing highway near the Wandermere Golf Course, Gilson said.
“The trains will operate all through construction,” Gilson said.
Three projects have or are ready to start that will close lanes or portions of area roads.
Crews have currently reduced traffic to one lane on Cheney Plaza Road about 11/2 miles south of Cheney. The crews are working to replace the bridge barrier, said Paul Lennemann, Spokane County’s construction engineer.
“After this guard rail project is done we will do another job there that will rebuild the bridge barriers,” Lennemann said. “We will close the road on that project, which is about three weeks away.”
Other crews have closed Railroad Avenue, except for local traffic, so they can install a sewer.
The location of the closure is south of Trent and west of Pines Road, Lennemann said. That road closure is expected to last until about the end of May.
Crews will close Heroy Avenue just east of the intersection with McDonald Road to all except local traffic for a couple months as crews install a sewer, Lennemann said.
In last week’s Getting There, the dates were switched with two upcoming public meetings on traffic projects in Spokane.
The first meeting will be held Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the West Central Community Center during the West Central Neighborhood Council meeting.
Residents who attend can hear a 7 p.m. presentation on the project to pave Belt Street between Nora and Montgomery avenues, city streets spokeswoman Ann Deasy said.
Then on March 18, a similar presentation can be heard at the East Central Community Center during the East Central Neighborhood Council meeting, which starts at 6:45 p.m.
At that meeting, residents can hear about the project to pave Crestline, Magnolia and Regal streets from Third to Fourth avenues.
Both the Belt Street and Third Avenue projects are expected to be completed by the end of summer.
Downtown Spokane has a few problem spots to avoid.
Post Street from Riverside to Main avenues will have southbound traffic detoured. In addition, the west side of Post Street north of Riverside has no parking or pedestrian traffic until the end of the year. The closure is needed to allow construction crews to renovate the Grant Building, Deasy said.
Also, Spokane Falls Boulevard east of Riverpoint Boulevard is reduced by one lane to allow the construction of a nursing school.
The Idaho Transportation Department has two projects on State Highway 97 south of Coeur d’Alene that will cause traffic slowdowns.
Crews are working on a bridge between Flicker Lane and Burma Road about 13 miles north of Harrison. Traffic signals are being used and drivers should expect a 15-minute delay in both directions.
Further south on Highway 97, crews have reduced traffic to one lane at Blue Lake Road as they work on the Harrison bridge project, about two miles north of Harrison. Traffic signals are in place and drivers should expect another 15-minute delay in both directions.
As a result of the work, boaters may have problems. Depending on the level of the Coeur d’Alene River, some taller boats may not be able to go under the bridge.