The plan to extend Indiana Avenue east from Sullivan Road may be in jeopardy after the Spokane Valley City Council narrowly voted to table the decision to award the construction bid for the project for two weeks.
The lowest bid, submitted by Spokane Rock Products, was just over $1 million, significantly less than the estimated cost.
The majority of the discussion from the city council and public testimony focused on the design of the road and access to a nearby Centennial Trail trailhead rather than on the bid itself. The planned road would continue Indiana from where it currently ends and extend it east to connect with the Mission Avenue and Flora Road intersection. It would be a coupletlike design, with the east and west travel lanes separated around a large open area. There was also discussion on whether the design would hamper development of the north side of Mission.
Residents who live west of that intersection have complained about having a one way road in front of their property. “There is a turnaround at the west end of the project,” said engineer Steve Worley. “It is a little inconvenient.”
The road was originally designed as a standard three-lane road, but the city tried unsuccessfully for years to obtain right of way from the major property owner in the area, Centennial Properties, Worley said. The land owner did not want the land split in half by a road. It was Centennial Properties that suggested the new road design and donated right of way to build it, Worley said. “We wanted to make that partnership work,” Worley said. “The road is where it is. The right of way has been donated. It has been recorded. The city owns it.”
Centennial Properties is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.
Councilman Dean Grafos said it would seem to make sense in the long run to change the design. He suggested adding an additional two-way access road with the savings from the lower than expected bid. “We’ve got $600,000 to do it with,” he said.
Councilman Bill Gothmann pointed out that the project is being paid for by a grant from the Transportation Improvement Board, with the city providing a 20 percent match. Any money saved by getting a cheaper bid must be returned. “That $600,000 the city saved does not belong to Spokane Valley,” he said. “We cannot take that money and spend it elsewhere.”
Worley said the city does not own enough right of way to put in a second road. “We tried it,” he said. “We looked at whether that could be done.”
There is no firm plan for developing the area and maps showing condos in the area are just ideas, he said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Those are just sketches, concepts.”
Councilwoman Brenda Grassel asked why the city was putting in a road if there was no development plan. “It seems to me we’re putting the cart before the horse,” she said. “I don’t understand the purpose of that.”
Several members of the community also expressed concern about access to the Centennial Trail and whether the public would continue to have access to Mission Avenue in the future. Mission will remain a road unless the council votes to vacate the land, said acting City Attorney Cary Driskell. “That is publicly dedicated right of way,” he said.
Currently Mission Avenue turns into a gravel road shortly before it dead ends at the Spokane River. Road plans show the last portion of Mission remaining untouched and at the previous council meeting Worley said that the construction contract will require the contractor to keep access to the trailhead open during construction.
Gothmann tried to keep the discussion focused on the issue at hand. “The question before us is should we approve a specific bid before us,” he said. “It’s not in the design stage. It’s past that.” The city owns the right of way for the road as designed. “Should we put a road on it or let it sit there and gather weeds?”
“I don’t want to overhaul this project,” said Councilman Gary Schimmels.
Grassel made the suggestion to delay the vote on the bid for two weeks. Worley said a short delay is possible, but said timing is important. Construction was scheduled to start in mid-April and be complete by the beginning of July. That would allow people to use the new road to access businesses on Indiana while a new concrete intersection is installed at Sullivan and Indiana. Local businesses requested that the intersection project take place in July and August to have as little impact on their business as possible, Worley said.
Mayor Tom Towey joined Grassel and Grafos in voting to table the bid vote for two weeks. “I certainly think we have enough questions out there to delay it,” Towey said.
During a break in the meeting Worley said that if the council wants to change the design of the road the city may have to start the design process over from scratch, including negotiating new right of way agreements. “It depends on how extensive the changes are,” he said. “We do not own the right of way for anything other than what we have designed.”