A bike and pedestrian trail almost two decades in the making will see significant progress thanks to federal stimulus money accepted Monday night by the Spokane City Council.
The 10-mile Fish Lake Trail will connect Spokane with Fish Lake County Park and the Columbia Plateau Trail, which goes to Cheney and the Tri-Cities.
On Monday, the council voted unanimously to move ahead with the $1.7 million second phase of the project, which will complete 4.4 miles to connect a previously paved section to the start of the route in West Spokane.
“It’s a vital link in a statewide system of trails,” said Spokane Mayor Mary Verner.
The city bought the land for the trail in 1991 from the Union Pacific Railroad.
The money accepted on Monday will pay for a parking lot and restroom at the trailhead near Government Way and Sunset Highway.
It also will be used to pave the 4.4 miles and to remove a bridge and rehabilitate four others.
About $1 million of the project came from a state grant awarded in 2007. The rest, $780,000, is federal stimulus money granted this year.
The project will complete the trail between Spokane and Marshall, but the most complex portion remains unfunded.
A 2.6-mile section between Scribner Road and Fish Lake crosses two railroad tracks and could cost $4.5 million to build, said Katherine Miller, a city of Spokane senior engineer. BNSF Railway has requested that the crossings be bridges.
In the meantime, the trail will remain closed and gated at Scribner.
“It’s all about safety,” Miller said. “People and trains do not mix.”
Officials hope that with most of the trail complete, pressure will mount to finish the route, which will be maintained by the city’s park department.
“We’re just going to keep plugging away on this thing,” said Taylor Bressler, Spokane’s park division manager.