August 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

Valley council trims road projects over matching funds concerns

By The Spokesman-Review
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The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to cut back on the number of road projects it submits for state grant money because of the expensive Sullivan Road bridge replacement looming on the horizon.

“I have concerns over limited matching funds,” said Councilwoman Brenda Grassel. If the city applies for grants and gets them, they are obligated to follow through with the projects, she said. “Maybe we don’t need to fund so many projects.”

Councilman Dean Grafos agreed, saying the bridge project is more important. “We need to put that on our priority list,” he said. He recommended asking for grants for some sidewalk projects near schools and the renovation of Sprague Avenue between Evergreen and Sullivan roads. “Other than that, I would forget the rest of them.”

The Sprague Avenue reconstruction project was one of the more expensive items on the list, with the $3.8 million price tag with the cost to the city at $770,000. The state Transportation Improvement Board has $50 million available for construction-ready projects that must break ground by June 2012 and the project is nearly ready, said senior engineer Steve Worley. Staff has been working on the project in the hopes that federal stimulus money would be available for “shovel ready” projects this year. “We feel fairly confident that this will get funded,” he said.

The project used to be called a resurfacing project but that is no longer an option, he said. “The condition of Sprague between Evergreen and Sullivan has dropped in two years from 42 to 24,” Worley said. “We are beyond the level of just grinding and overlaying the road.”

The grants the city is applying for from the TIB typically require cities to pay 20 percent of the cost in matching funds, though the match can also come from federal grants. City staff had recommended asking for grants for nine projects, three of them for sidewalks. “The likelihood of getting all these projects is very, very small,” he said.

But council members decided not to take the risk, voting unanimously to approve seeking grants for a smaller list of six projects:

• The Sprague Avenue reconstruction project got the nod

• Improving Mission Avenue from Flora Road to Barker Road

• Making safety improvements at the intersection of 16th Avenue and Pines Road

The three sidewalk projects are proposed on:

• Sprague from Appleway to Long Road

• Fourth Avenue from Sullivan to Conklin roads

• Progress Road from Wellesley to Trent avenues

The projects that failed to be approved included two new roads to connect streets that stop and start. The proposal was to build Broadway between Flora and Barker as well as to connect Mansfield between Pines Road and Mirabeau Parkway. The third failed project would have replaced the Broadway intersections at Argonne and Mullan with concrete.

Even though the council voted to trim the project list to save money for the Sullivan Bridge project, Worley said the city would not be asking TIB for grant money for that project because the organization wants projects built within a year or two. “We’re not close enough yet to construction,” he said.

In other business, the council got its first look at some projects that could be funded by the City Safety Grant Program run by the Washington State Department of Transportation. “This one will be maybe a little more fun because there’s no match,” said traffic engineer Inga Note. There is $50 million available for projects across the state and money won’t be distributed again until 2015, she said.

The program is different than most because the state analyzes intersections and corridors and offers cities money for specific locations that have high accident rates or safety issues. The problem areas the state identified in Spokane Valley are:

• The intersection of Highway 27 and Grace Avenue

• Argonne Road from Millwood to Interstate 90

• Argonne from Broadway to Montgomery avenues

• Highway 27 from I-90 to Grace

Note said she was recommending widening Highway 27 at Grace to include a center turn lane and replacing signals and improving the timing of lights on Argonne. There is also money available for citywide improvements like making crosswalk improvements and replacing faded signs.

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