May 5, 2011 in Washington Voices

Unfunded future road projects discussed

Review of six-year TIP raises questions about grants, street preservation and building new roads
By The Spokesman-Review
Map of this story's location

A review of the city of Spokane Valley’s six-year Transportation Improvement Program with the City Council evolved into a discussion on whether the city should even be considering building new roads in light of the need for $4 million annually to pay for street preservation projects.

“Why would we want to continue to add streets when we can’t keep up the ones we have?” said Councilwoman Brenda Grassel. If street preservation plan is a priority then it should be funded in the TIP.

The grants that are available are for congestion relief, safety and one or two other categories, said senior engineer Steve Worley. There are almost never grants available for street preservation projects. “We try to find projects that fit the criteria.”

Available grants are also only given for arterials. “None of the funding we receive is for residential roads,” he said.

The six-year plan calls for the completion of a few new streets, mostly extensions of current arterials that dead end. The projects include Mansfield Avenue east of Pines Road, and Broadway Avenue from Flora Road to Barker Road. “We’re trying to get all the connections on the arterials,” said Public Works Director Neil Kersten. Doing so will help ease traffic congestion on major east-west routes.

Councilman Dean Grafos said he didn’t want to be trapped into doing projects just because the city has received a grant for them. Grants require the city to provide matching funds, usually equal to about 20 or 25 percent of the project cost.

The council can make the decision not to apply for grants, Kersten said. “We try to always come to you prior to putting in grant applications,” he said.

The TIP must be updated annually but can be modified at any time. It lists what projects are scheduled to be completed in each calendar year. Most of the projects listed for 2012 are already funded by grants, but some are not. Several of the projects listed, however, only include the design phase, not actual construction.

“We’re doing it in phases,” Worley said. “Money is so tight these days that we’re doing them in chunks.”

Grafos noted that a lot of projects are listed in 2012 and that perhaps the city should postpone the unfunded ones to 2013. “It looks like we’ve got a lot on our plate,” he said.

“It’s up to you if you want to move some of these down,” Kersten said. “You’ve got two or three more shots at this before you pass it.”

The six year TIP is scheduled to be discussed again at the May 17 council meeting.

In other business, the council approved a request by Kersten to apply for a grant to put in flashing school zone beacons at Chester Elementary and Orchard Center Elementary. Kersten said he consulted with the school districts and the Spokane Valley Police Department before deciding which schools to select for the beacons. The decision was based in part on the number of cars that used the road and the number of children walking to and from school, he said.

The council also voted unanimously to provide a letter of support to Community Frameworks, which is building the second phase of Appleway Court senior housing at Farr Road and Appleway. The organization and partner Rockwood Retirement Communities are applying for $4 million in federal HUD funding for the project.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email