May 3, 2010 in City

Wallace road to be renamed Harry Magnuson Way

North Idaho town honoring man who kept I-90 from destroying town
By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photo

“There gonna name it after old Harry,” Marvin Walker said Wednesday as he stood under the I-90 overpass in Wallace with his dog Brutus. On Saturday, the town is renaming the I-90 business loop as Harry F. Magnuson Way. The Northern Pacific depot, in the background, was saved as part of a freeway fight Magnuson spearheaded.
(Full-size photo)

The North Idaho legacy of the late Harry F. Magnuson will be memorialized in Wallace this month with the renaming of the city’s former highway route.

The mining and business magnate led a fight in the 1970s and ’80s against the state and federal government to stop demolition of portions of historic Wallace for freeway construction.

Magnuson sued transportation officials for not complying with federal environmental law and was a key participant in an effort to move the historic Northern Pacific Railway depot from the freeway path.

At noon Saturday – the same day set aside as Depot Day to commemorate the rescue 25 years ago – city leaders will dedicate the former highway route on Front, Fifth and Bank as Harry F. Magnuson Way.

“His loyalty to his community never wavered,” Mayor Dick Vester said of Magnuson, who died last year at age 85.

For years, Wallace had the distinction of having the only stoplight on Interstate 90 between Seattle and Boston as the route wound through surface streets.

With impending I-90 development, a compromise rerouted the interstate along the hillside just north of the historic business district via an elevated viaduct, according to a plaque being placed in Magnuson’s honor.

“Without his efforts, the elegant historic district you see today would be irreparably marred by four lanes of concrete,” the plaque says.

The Wallace Historic District was created in 1979 and expanded in 1983 to include more than 1,000 acres.

Magnuson won an injunction against an earlier freeway plan because transportation officials failed to get an environmental impact statement.

Magnuson’s son John, a Coeur d’Alene attorney, said the government had an obligation to consider historic and cultural resources in its choice of a route.

The lawsuit resulted in the 30-foot-tall viaduct that runs 4,400 feet alongside the city. The freeway opened in 1991.

“It was about the best place you could put it,” short of drilling a tunnel to the north, Magnuson said of its current route.

Vester, who took office earlier this year, said the dedication of Magnuson Way is larger than the freeway fight that began 40 years ago.

“I look at it more as a city’s way of honoring Harry and thanking him for all he did for the city of Wallace,” the mayor said.

Repairs reduce I-90 lanes

Interstate 90 between the state line and Post Falls’ Spokane Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction today for repair work on three bridges and ramps. The closure should last about 30 days, officials said.

To help keep traffic flowing through the narrowed construction zone, transportation department workers in marked vehicles will assist motorists with breakdowns, flats and other needs. The service begins Tuesday and will last through construction, according to the department.

Work to watch for

•In northwest Spokane, a project to install storm water treatment planters and pavement that is pervious to water will begin today along Broadway Avenue from Elm to Oak streets.

Broadway will be closed, and traffic will be detoured onto College Avenue.

•In east Spokane, Second Avenue from Rebecca to Florida streets will be closed through May 15 for sewer installation work. Other small sections of residential streets nearby also are being closed for the work.

•A rail crossing repair will be under way on Fairview Avenue east of Market Street through Wednesday.

•Southeast Boulevard is getting new striping today; traffic restrictions are expected.

Website lists speed traps

If you want to get an idea where law officers might be waiting to catch speeders, a handy Web site called the National Speed Trap Exchange lists favorite spots at

Be prepared, however – it’s a long list.

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