Truella Stone often witnessed car crashes during slick conditions in front of her store along Freya Street
Cars driving over a railroad bridge struggled to stop at the light at Broadway Avenue. Trucks heading north from the Broadway intersection had difficulty gathering speed to make it up the incline.
After the city moved the intersection a block south last year, however, Stone witnessed no accidents in front of her business, Moran Fence – even during the harshest season of snowfall in Spokane history.
A second part of the Freya project starting Saturday will make the route even safer, city officials say. But it will come at the cost of convenience as motorists are rerouted around construction for almost a year.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, crews will close Freya Street to tear down the old viaduct, which consists of two parallel bridges, over BNSF Railway tracks. It will be replaced by a longer bridge with a more gradual slope to improve driver visibility, said Ken Olley, project supervisor for Garco Construction.
The new structure also will have sidewalks on both sides of the street, with barriers separating pedestrians from cars. The current viaduct has only one sidewalk.
The new bridge is expected to open in late May or June, Olley said.
About 28,000 vehicles a day travel on Freya over the tracks, which handle 58 trains daily.
City officials said they believe the recession helped attract a favorable bid. They had estimated the project would cost $9.4 million. The winning bid from Garco was $6.4 million.
The northbound Freya bridge opened in 1928 and has been determined to be “structurally deficient,” said Spokane Street Director Mark Serbousek, also the city’s bridge engineer. The southbound bridge was added in 1970. While the structure holding it up is sound, it has “major deck problems,” Serbousek said.
Serbousek said the project is one of the city’s largest bridge priorities because of its condition and the number of trucks that use the route.
In the coming months, the city also hopes to start building a bridge over the BNSF tracks a half mile to the east at Havana.
Stone, of Moran Fence, asked why the city didn’t build the Havana bridge before having to close Freya for almost a year. She said she and other nearby business owners are concerned the length of the project could affect their companies. Steve Hansen, a city senior engineer, said the city had hoped to complete Havana first, but problems attaining right-of-way for the project held it up.
“Freya Street is essentially crumbling,” Hansen said. “We reached a point when there wasn’t any more time to delay.”
The city plans to move sewer and water lines along Havana this fall. Havana bridge construction could start early next year, Hansen said.