April 23, 2011 in Washington Voices

Projects’ costs concern council

Quiet zones along railroad, trail head improvement in preliminary stages
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The Spokane Valley City Council agreed this week to take the first steps on two large projects, but final decisions are months away on whether the projects will become reality.

The first project is establishing quiet zones on the Union Pacific Railroad crossings north of Trent at Vista Road and Park Road. Neighbors in the area presented the city with a signed petition last year requesting the quiet zones because of what they called excessive train whistles in the middle of the night. It would cost about $82,000 just to do the preliminary design and get permission from the Federal Railroad Administration, said Public Works Director Neil Kersten.

A previous estimate put the cost of needed upgrades at between $390,000 and $825,000 to do both crossings. “You really have to contain traffic so they can’t go around the arms,” he said.

Mayor Tom Towey questioned how the city could pay for the project. City Manager Mike Jackson said that would have to be researched and brought back to the council.

Consultants would be about halfway through the preliminary process before a firm construction estimate can be made, Kersten said. “We’re going to have to get that deep before we’re go/no go on the project,” he said. That will take several months and allow the city time to consult with the town of Millwood, which is close to the proposed quiet zones.

“We’re talking a long, drawn-out process for this,” said Councilman Dean Grafos.

The other project the council gave its tentative blessing to is the improvement of the Mission Avenue trail head where the road dead-ends at the Centennial Trail in Greenacres. Kersten said it would cost about $150,000 to pave Mission, add a 10-foot pathway to the north of Mission and put in 20 parking spaces as well as a vehicle turnaround.

Mission is surrounded by land owned by Centennial Properties, and the city would need to get more right of way from Centennial to do the project. “We have talked to Centennial,” Kersten said. “They’re more than willing to work with us.” The company has no problem with having a trail head there, he said.

Centennial Properties is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

The Centennial Trail is considered part of Riverside State Park and the park may be agreeable to allowing parking spaces on several dozen feet of right of way they own next to the trail, Kersten said. “They’re very on board,” he said. “They’ll work with us.”

Councilman Bill Gothmann asked if there was an economic advantage to doing the trail head improvements during the construction of the extension of Indiana Avenue. “No,” Kersten said. “It’s a separate project.”

The council could also decide to leave Mission as a gravel road to save money or consider other options. It will take time to go through the public process, and the project would likely not go out to bid until the fall or early spring, Kersten said. “It’s not going to happen in the next couple of months.”

Towey again asked where money would come from for the project. Jackson said the council could use money in the capital projects fund. “We do have options to fund this,” he said.

“I think it will be a good economic benefit for the city,” Grafos said. “I think it will pay for itself.”

The council members unanimously gave Kersten permission to begin plans for the project. He will come back to the council at a later date with a projected schedule and funding options.


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