October 6, 2011 in Washington Voices

City will pursue grant for Sullivan bridge

Council OKs work on application for $10 million in federal money
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The city of Spokane Valley has an opportunity to get a grant for the $10 million needed to build a replacement for the failing Sullivan Road Bridge that carries southbound traffic. The city had to impose weight restrictions on the bridge earlier this year to slow the deterioration, which has affected local businesses and trucking companies.

The city has already obtained $10 million in grants for the projects, but needs double that to cover the anticipated cost of the bridge. The Federal government is offering so-called “Tiger” grants and the competition for the projects is expected to be high, said senior engineer Steve Worley. The city has already submitted a pre-application, but no one knows when the city will find out if it has passed that first hurdle, Worley said. “The project appears to fit the criteria pretty well,” he said.

The final application is due Oct. 31 and is extremely detailed, Worley said. The city would need to hire an outside consultant at an estimated cost of $40,000 in order to get the application done on time. Work on the application will likely have to start before the city finds out if its pre-application has been approved, said public works director Neil Kersten. “We’ve got to start that next week,” he said.

Mayor Tom Towey said the grant would require that the city begin construction in June 2013, which does not match the city’s current construction schedule. “My concern is the timeline,” he said. “The estimate we have right now is late 2013.”

Worley said he was assured by several potential consultants that the required environmental work could be completed in time to meet the deadline, Worley said. “What happens if we commit everything and we don’t meet the timeline?” asked Towey. “Then we don’t get the grant,” Worley said.

Councilman Bill Gothmann said that even if the city moves forward and can’t meet the timeline, it would only be out $40,000. “I would just as soon go ahead and do it,” he said.

The other council members agreed and gave the go-ahead to hire a consultant and begin work on the grant application. The Sullivan Bridge is too important, said councilman Arne Woodard. “It’s still our No. 1 project,” he said. “I think it’s something we have to try for.”

In other business, the council heard a presentation from Yakima attorney Ken Harper, who is an expert in shoreline management law. He said the new shoreline management act rules came about from a landmark settlement in 2003 that included industry groups, business groups and environmental groups. That settlement created the guidelines that cities have to follow in creating a Shoreline Master Plan, he said. “They’re the framework now,” he said.

The overriding requirement is that each plan must ensure “no net loss of ecological shoreline functions.” “That’s the baseline,” Harper said. Some guidelines are requirements and some are general, he said. If a city chooses to go outside the guidelines, the Department of Ecology likely would not approve the plan and it would create a conflict, he said.

The “no net loss” phrase is based on where the city’s shorelines are now and doesn’t try to go back “to some golden age when dinosaurs roamed free,” he said. “It’s not retroactive.”

Later in the meeting, councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she doesn’t completely understand the impact of the draft shoreline goals and policies created by an advisory committee and believes the city should hire a specialist to help the council work through it. “I’m not comfortable with the wording we received,” she said.

Woodard and Grafos both agreed, with Grafos stating that the council needs to know how to interpret the guidelines.

Gothmann sounded a note of caution about tinkering with the draft policies before they have been reviewed by the Planning Commission.

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