Some Greenacres residents came to Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting to speak out against the planned extension of Indiana Avenue east of Sullivan Road to Flora Road. But senior engineer Steve Worley quickly put their concerns to rest during a presentation on the project to the council.
Resident Mary Pollard said she was concerned about a “master plan proposal” drawing that showed condos and businesses around the new road the city plans to build beginning in mid-April. She said the city should not create prime condo property by “plundering the taxpayers.” She said the drawing does not show Mission Avenue, which currently provides access to the Centennial Trail. Kayakers use that trailhead to access the river.
Pollard said she was also concerned about more traffic increasing emissions and the safety of pedestrians making their way through a roundabout planned for the intersection of Mission Avenue and Flora Road. “Council has the power to stop this project or at least slow it down,” she said.
Resident Diane Johnson said she also does not like having a roundabout installed. “A light would probably be more safe,” she said. “We have a lot of pedestrian activity.”
Continued access to the Centennial Trail is also important. “That’s access to parkland for the community,” she said.
The project addresses those pedestrian, trailhead and traffic concerns, Worley said. There will be sidewalks and bike lanes on each side of the road and there will be so-called “refuge islands” provided for pedestrians. Access to the Centennial Trail will be maintained.
Worley said the project has been planned for years and has already gone out to bid. He called the “master plan proposal” merely a conceptual drawing of what future development might look like on the parcel, which is owned by Centennial Properties. “It’s a little bit better than a back of the napkin drawing,” he said. “This is not a done deal.”
Centennial Properties is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.
The city originally planned to put in a standard road with a travel lane in each direction and a center turn lane. But the city also agreed to receive input on the design from Centennial Properties, which has given the city more than $1.3 million worth of land for the road right of way, utility easements and drainage easements. “We thought that was a fair trade,” Worley said. “It’s a significant contribution,” Worley said. “Normally on a project like this we’d have to purchase the right of way.”
The city also received $39,000 in right of way land and $160,000 in cash from Hanson Industries, which owns property on the southern end of the project. Spokane County also contributed more than 5,500 square feet of right of way from an old railroad line.
The final layout of the road now looks something like a snake that has swallowed a large lunch. The road would continue from where Indiana currently ends east of Sullivan. After a short while it divides, with an eastbound lane to the south and a westbound lane to the north, surrounding a large oval area that could eventually include businesses. The two branches merge before connecting to the intersection of Mission Avenue and Flora Road, where a new roundabout will be built.
The design includes access to a gravel portion of Mission Avenue that dead ends at the Centennial Trail, Worley said. The city believes keeping that access is important and will even require the contractor to keep access open during construction. “We have to provide that,” he said. “We want to provide that.”
Councilman Dean Grafos questioned whether the city would have to pay for future expansion of the road if it needs to be widened. Worley said that would not be the city’s responsibility. “Any additional lanes to that road will be built by the developer,” he said.
The decision to install a roundabout instead of traffic lights at Mission and Flora came after a study was done analyzing current and future traffic. Cars going through a roundabout produce less than half the CO2 emissions of cars waiting at a stop light, Worley said. “The roundabout is safer, it’s more environmentally friendly and it’s cheaper in the long run.”
Building the new road should have minimal impact on nearby residents, but the intersection of Mission and Flora will be closed for about five weeks during construction.
Worley also gave a presentation to the council on the city’s efforts to find money to pay to replace a portion of the Sullivan Road Bridge. “A lot of people don’t realize there are actually two bridges at this location,” he said. The one that needs to be replaced was completed in 1951 and currently carries southbound traffic.
The bridge has a high volume of truck traffic and the bridge has developed cracks. After an inspection in April 2010 it was given a 24.14 sufficiency rating on a 100-point scale. It is considered “structurally deficient,” Worley said. “It’s been declining over the years.”
Worley said engineers are considering enacting weight limits for the bridge, but have been holding off because they recognize the extreme negative impact that would have on local businesses. He also emphasized that the bridge is still safe for use. “There are so many redundancies and safety factors built into the bridge,” he said. “It is safe to drive over.”
The city has received $10 million in grants so far to help pay for a new bridge. The estimated cost to replace it is $19.75 million but Worley said he thinks it can be done for less. “We replaced the Barker Road Bridge for $11 million and this bridge is slightly shorter and narrower,” he said.
Worley was seeking permission from the council to ask for some of the grant money early so the city can start on the design work. Normally design money is not released until the project is fully funded. It takes about two years to get through the design and environmental work and if the city gets that portion of the money now it can get the project done faster, he said.
The council agreed to his request. “I certainly support getting the funds,” said Councilman Bill Gothmann.
Grafos said the bridge is important to the city. “I think that’s where all the growth is going,” he said.