Despite the recent furor over the use of grant money for road projects, the Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to allow staff to apply for grants for two large upcoming projects.
Money will be needed within the next few years to fund the replacement of the west side of the Sullivan Road bridge and build an overpass at Trent and Barker over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks, said senior engineer Steve Worley. A 2009 inspection revealed that the west section of the Sullivan Road Bridge scored a sufficiency rating of 24.14, which is considered structurally deficient. The rating makes the project eligible for federal funding for the estimated $19.7 million cost.
Federal bridge grants require a 20 percent match and Worley said he would apply for a state grant from the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board to supply some of the needed matching funds. Otherwise the city would have to pay $4 million for its share. “The city does not have that kind of money at this time,” Worley said.
The Barker overpass is part of the “Bridging the Valley” effort and has been ranked the second-highest regionally important project by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council. Worley estimates that the project will cost around $61 million and said staff will be applying for any grant the project qualifies for. “The cost of this project is enormous,” he said.
That project will not be happening soon, even though it is already partially designed. “It depends on how quickly we can get funding,” he said. “It could be several years.”
Worley said there will be a lot of competition for the two FMSIB grants. “There’s no guarantee we’re going to get funding for either of them,” he said.
Councilwoman Brenda Grassel asked if there was a deadline for the grant application, since the item had been added to the meeting late. “There’s quite a bit of material here,” she said. “We just received this five minutes before the meeting.”
Worley said the applications have to be in by Friday and it was a last minute addition to the agenda because he only just realized that the applications require the signature of the mayor.
Grassel also made reference to recent discussions on grant-funded road projects and said she didn’t want to be in the position again of having to give back grant money if the council decided not to move forward with the projects. Grassel lodged the only no vote; all other council members present voted to approve the requests for grant money.
In other business, there was a public hearing on the proposed 2011-’16 Transportation Improvement Plan, which details all the road projects the city is considering for the next six years. There was no public comment and council members had no questions.
The council also voted unanimously to pass a resolution expressing support of the efforts of “ChangePoint Spokane” to conduct community education on how best to help the homeless in regards to the panhandling issue. There were also reports on a proposed street vacation of a section of 16th Avenue near Carnahan and several proposed Municipal Code text amendments. The amendments would add language to address developer responsibilities, incorporate the revised flood insurance rates maps and provide a reasonable use exception for properties impacted by critical areas.