August 27, 2011 in Washington Voices

Mansfield road project gets another look

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A road project the Spokane Valley City Council voted to remove from a list to submit for grant funding two weeks ago got a second chance this week.

The council voted to ask for grant money to fund the completion of Mansfield Avenue after being told that nearby landowners are willing to pay 10 percent of the cost.

The proposed project will complete Mansfield Avenue between Pines Road and Mirabeau Parkway. It currently has a several-hundred-foot gap, which means that residents in the nearby apartment buildings can only access their residences by circling around to Mirabeau Parkway to the east.

Senior engineer Steve Worley said he met with the property owners the day after the previous council vote. “I heard a day or two later that they would be interested in participating,” he said. The apartment complex owners are ready to break ground on the second phase of their development and would like the road completed to allow better access, he said.

Under the old funding plan the city would have been responsible for $190,000 in matching funds if it got the grant, which the council considered too expensive. The new funding from the owners of the nearby Granite Pointe Apartments will drop the amount needed from the city to $98,000 as well as making the project more likely to win approval from the organization awarding the road construction grants. The city has already received a federal grant for $887,000 toward the $1.9 million project. As part of the process the city would need to purchase and demolish a six-plex that sits where the road would go, Worley said.

Tom Hamilton, one of the owners of the Granite Point Apartments, said his group already has a building permit for the next phase of construction. “We were assured several years ago that the road would go through,” he said. The landowners have already spent $800,000 to extend Mansfield from the east where it used to dead-end closer to Mirabeau Parkway.

Hamilton urged the council to approve the grant application and do the project. “The city stands to gain a whole lot more than the $100,000 cost,” he said, referring to sales tax on building supplies and future property taxes on the new complex. “It’s basically a no-brainer. You will make money, not spend money, if you approve this.”

Councilman Chuck Hafner asked what happens if the owners of the six-plex that needs to be torn down refuse to sell. “Have they been approached?” he said.

No one from the city has approached them yet, Worley said. “The city has the right of condemnation,” Worley said. “That is a council decision. We have never used condemnation.”

The vote to approve the grant application for the Mansfield extension project was unanimous, with Councilman Gary Schimmels absent.

The council also heard a report on the failing Sullivan Road bridge that carries southbound traffic. The city has partial funding to replace it and is getting ready to start an estimated two years of environmental and design work, said Worley. Weight restrictions were put in place earlier this year, but the bridge that carries northbound traffic is still in good shape.

“A lot of people don’t realize there are two separate bridges there,” Worley said. “If you want a little excitement, go walk on the bridge when the trucks are driving on it and feel the bounce in the bridge.”

The bridge has a hinge pin design, which was also used on the old Barker Road bridge and Harvard Road bridge. “It has broken on other bridges,” Worley said. The bridge also has concrete footings that the riverbed is scouring away from, another design feature that isn’t used anymore. “We drill big shafts 80 feet into the river bed,” he said.

Even though there are cracks and other signs of deterioration, the bridge is still safe for travel, Worley said. “It’s not at risk of failure,” he said.

Worley said he and others looked for a way to avoid putting weight restrictions in place because they recognized it would impact local businesses. “We couldn’t come up with anything that would be safe,” he said.

Putting the restrictions in place should slow the deterioration until the bridge can be rebuilt. It’s still not as bad as the old Harvard Road bridge, which was limited to only passenger cars and light trucks after a hinge pin broke, Worley said. “That’s what we’re trying to prevent,” he said.

Staff is currently having the Sullivan bridge examined by a bridge engineer to see if there are any temporary fixes that can be made to allow the removal of the weight restrictions, Worley said.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel asked if northbound and southbound traffic could be reduced to one lane each and routed over the east bridge that currently carries northbound traffic. “Why couldn’t we just do a two-lane fix?” she said.

That option was considered, but it would likely cause a greater impact than the weight restrictions, Worley said. “The volume of traffic on Sullivan is huge,” he said.

Hafner suggested allowing only passenger cars on the failing bridge and have trucks use the newer bridge next to it. “I think the best recommendation is to go with the temporary fixes,” Worley said.

The city should get more details on those temporary fixes soon and should be able to do the work this fall, Worley said. “That is our goal.”

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