October 29, 2008 in City

Part of Valley couplet going back to two-way

Council OKs hybrid plan
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Spokane Valley City Council struck a compromise Tuesday on a controversial proposal to restore two-way traffic on Sprague Avenue.

Two-way traffic will be restored only between Dishman-Mica and University roads under a “hybrid” approach adopted by the council. Two-way traffic will be introduced to Appleway Boulevard in the same section.

The one-way Sprague-Appleway couplet between Interstate 90 and Dishman-Mica Road will remain unchanged.

That section of the couplet is heavily used by commuters who live on the city’s south side. Studies have shown, though, that much of the traffic turns onto Dishman-Mica Road.

Council members hope the compromise will satisfy commuters as well as Sprague Avenue business and property owners who say the one-way couplet has been devastating.

City officials believe two-way traffic on Sprague is essential to the success of a city center district they hope to develop at the largely defunct University City Shopping Center at Sprague and University.

“I do think it matches our problem very well,” Councilman Bill Gothmann said of the compromise.

He noted there is little or no pressure from business owners in the “auto row” area west of Dishman-Mica Road.

Auto dealers have told city officials they have adapted to the couplet, and their businesses form a “destination” shopping area that will draw customers regardless of traffic patterns.

Commuters, on the other hand, have overwhelmingly opposed tampering with the one-way couplet. At meeting after meeting, dozens of commuters savaged the proposal.

Mayor Rich Munson began Tuesday night’s discussion with a suggestion to adopt the hybrid plan presented by Sprague-Appleway plan manager Scott Kuhta, but with a twist.

Munson wanted to leave four traffic lanes on Appleway Boulevard between Dishman-Mica and University roads. The staff proposal called for narrowing the roadway to two traffic lanes, one in each direction, and a center turn lane.

Narrowing Appleway allows for bicycle paths on both sides of the roadway and creation of an all-purpose path.

Gothmann objected that the council shouldn’t get bogged down in minutiae about the number and type of lanes in that section. Other council members agreed.

Nor did the council take a position on how a planned eastward extension of Appleway should be configured. Given the difficulties of obtaining the right of way and construction money, “that’s an issue for another council,” Councilman Dick Denenny said.

Although the timing hasn’t been determined, the plan is to be implemented in stages, starting with the city center district.

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