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Council debates, OKs transportation plan

Thu., June 18, 2009

What might have been a quick discussion turned into a two-hour slog Tuesday night as the Liberty Lake City Council debated its six-year comprehensive transportation program, also known as a transportation improvement plan.

City staff told the council repeatedly that the unranked list of road projects simply included every project they could foresee needing, some council members and representatives of developers in the audience turned it into a debate on the merits of each of the suggested projects. The transportation improvement plan is required if the city wants to apply for federal and state grant money for the projects, something the city has not done for the last four years because the city lacked an updated plan.

The plan includes the construction of a median in Appleway from Liberty Lake Road to Rocky Hill Lane in five stages, constructing Boone Avenue from the west city limits to Mission Avenue, constructing Indiana Avenue from Holl to Harvard roads, putting in signals at Harvard and Mission, and Harvard and Indiana and reconstruction of Henry Road from Sprague Avenue to Country Vista Drive. Improvements also are planned for Sprague, Valleyway Avenue, Country Vista Drive and Mission. The proposed projects total $21 million.

The plan was presented to the community development committee twice and was presented during a workshop at the last council meeting, but both council members and audience members expressed surprise that there wasn’t more time to work on the plan. “We have 20 projects to go over and we have to decide tonight?” said council member Patrick Jenkins.

“Only if you want these considered for grants,” said Mayor Wendy Van Orman.

Frank Ide of Taylor Engineering, representing Liberty Lake Land Co., said the process was too quick. “I have some concerns about the process,” he said. “I would have loved to hear about this sooner. Some of these projects are maybe sort of iffy.”

Greenstone Corp. project manager Drew Benado, who addressed the council for 30 minutes in a public hearing on the plan, objected to the city’s proposal to build Boone from the west city limits to Mission. It conflicts with a road Greenstone is planning to build as part of the River District that would connect to Mission at the same spot. “Which one dictates?” he said.

Community Development Director Doug Smith said that the city’s Boone proposal was simply a backup plan in case Greenstone’s plan, which depends on negotiations with a neighboring land owner, doesn’t go through.

Council member Susan Schuler reminded the council that the list of projects is not set in stone.

Benado’s argument seemed to persuade the council, with council member Neal Olander making a motion to pass the transportation plan without the Boone project in it. The revised plan passed unanimously.

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