After a lengthy discussion Tuesday night, the Spokane Valley City Council agreed to spend $40,000 to do some traffic modeling on Sprague Avenue and Appleway in advance of a council vote on whether to put the issue of one-way Sprague on the November ballot.
The council must decide by Aug. 15. “It’s very tight to meet the ballot date,” said Public Works Director Neil Kersten. “We’d probably have to have a special meeting.” After the initial study of the traffic impacts on the one-way sections of Sprague and Appleway between Argonne and University roads the second step would be to do a full analysis of all the intersections to see where turn lanes might be needed or any other changes made to make sure the intersections are not failing, he said. That second phase would cost an additional $40,000 to $60,000.
Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said the council just needs to know if citizens want Sprague to be one-way or two-way. “I question whether we need to have a dollar amount attached,” she said. “It might be 2020 before we ever did the conversion.”
Councilman Arne Woodard asked if the proposal to change the roads to two-way would include things like curbing and landscaping. “Are we going to do it the right way?” he said. “If we’re going to do it as an immediate project, then we need a bond number.”
The city could just do an advisory vote on the one-way issue and then do the project when money becomes available, said Councilman Dean Grafos. “Personally, I’m not in favor of turning that around,” he said.
Even if there is only an advisory vote people should have an idea of how much the conversion would cost, said Mayor Tom Towey. “Part of their decision would be how much is this going to cost me and my family,” he said.
Councilman Chuck Hafner agreed that a ballot question should be accompanied by a number. “How does this affect Appleway?” he said.
Right now Appleway is four lanes going east, said Kersten. “It would become two lanes eastbound, one lane westbound with a center-turn lane,” he said.
If the council favors an advisory vote they could include an approximate number for the cost of the change, he said. “We know it’s around $6 million,” Kersten said.
Hafner asked if that figure included trees, irrigation and other landscaping. “I would like to know what that means,” he said.
Gothmann said that the cost to actually reconfigure traffic is really only $1.5 million. The rest of the estimated $6 million is landscaping and road improvements, he said.
Towey said he believes the city should get a firm dollar amount for the conversion by doing the traffic studies. “It is our responsibility to give the citizens as much information on that decision as we can,” he said. “If that means spending extra money, I’m all for it.”
Councilman Gary Schimmels said he was not in favor of an advisory vote. “People just laugh at advisory votes,” he said. “We, as a legislative body, this is one of our duties, not to pass this on the public, especially without the facts. It’s a lot of money, and it’s basically out of our pocket.”
Schimmels said he was in favor of postponing any vote on putting the issue on the ballot until next year, but Hafner and Towey quickly disagreed with him.
“How are we supposed to get the facts without doing the study?” Hafner said. “It’s getting to be a sore that keeps getting sorer.”
“We need to make a decision,” Towey said. “We need to make it this year, not next year or the year after or the year after.”
Gothmann also agreed that the council needs to complete the traffic studies to get the facts it needs. “It’s got to be done.”
In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve the city’s six-year Transportation Improvement Plan, which must be updated every year. The plan is essentially a list of road, trail and bridge projects the city anticipates doing over the next six years. The council also voted unanimously to award a bid for the Broadway Avenue Safety Project to Poe Asphalt for just over $1 million. The project was originally planned for this spring, but was postponed so some resurfacing work and stormwater improvements could be added to the project.
Broadway Avenue will now be resurfaced between Park and Vista roads and some failing drywells in that section will also be replaced. The rest of the project includes the restriping of Broadway between Park and Pines roads to one travel lane in each direction, a center turn lane and bike lanes.
Another affirmative vote gave the bid to reconstruct the Sullivan Road and Indiana Avenue intersection to Acme Concrete for just over $1 million. The five-week project is expected to start in late July.
The council also voted to approve an interlocal agreement with the city of Airway Heights to provide plan review services. The city had a short-term contract with Airway Heights last year for the same services and earned over $21,000. The new agreement is ongoing and will be automatically renewed every year until one of the cities provides a written cancellation notice.