November 22, 2008 in Voices

Traffic-flow decision serves present and future needs

Bill Gothmann Staff writer

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Elected officials are, many times, faced with making difficult decisions on behalf of the city. Sometimes, this means trying to satisfy competing interests, all of which are legitimate. One such issue is the direction of traffic flow on Sprague and Appleway.

Commuters would prefer that both of these roads be one-way. We understand that. We, too, drive those roads. One-way roads permit us to get from our jobs to home rapidly, with few stops for lights.

Businesses would, in general, prefer two-way streets. They also contribute 62 percent of our general fund revenues. Without them, these would have to be made up by increased real estate taxes.

Businesses invest their capital and their sweat in trying to make a living and this means they have to be visible to the public. With some businesses, visibility is everything, especially those businesses where the public is prone to stop on the way home from work. Examples are service stations and fast-food restaurants.

Furthermore, businesses provide employment, offer the products and services we need, and contribute to the overall health of the community. Note that the road in front of their business is their local road, just as the road in front of your residence is your local road.

The other question that had to be answered was what other cities were doing. What makes a business district successful? How can we reverse the decline of business within the Sprague- Appleway corridor? To answer these questions, we consulted with world-famous traffic experts, planning experts and retail experts.

Our consultants presented to us three options for traffic direction: (1) an all one-way option, (2) an all two-way option, and (3) a hybrid option whereby Sprague and Appleway are one way west of Argonne and two-way east of Argonne. Note that the two way and hybrid models would introduce a section of roadway none of us has ever seen in Spokane Valley: the two-road, two-way arterial.

The consultants then modeled the year 2030 traffic flow and computed the time to travel the corridor for each of the three options. Their recommendation, when all factors were considered was to adopt the all two-way option.

We also asked consultants which method would be better for Appleway if it is to be a residential and office boulevard. Again, the answer was two-way.

We listened to citizens and businesses. Many citizens told us they preferred the one-way option. In general, businesses west of Argonne were indifferent as to traffic direction. Those east of Argonne, however, preferred the two-way option.

When we sat down to look at the projected year 2030 travel times, we found that the hybrid option took an average of 12 seconds more than the all one-way option to go from I-90 to Sullivan. For I-90 to Argonne, the difference was three seconds. Thus, the hybrid model gave essentially the same travel times as the one-way model. Note that one road could be synchronized for east to west travel while the other road could be synchronized for west to east travel.

Thus, when it came time to make the decision, all seven councilmembers chose the hybrid system. It gives us the quick travel times commuters want while, at the same time, satisfying the present and future needs of the business and City Center.

Bill Gothmann is a Spokane Valley councilman.

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