September 22, 2011 in Washington Voices

Sullivan Bridge will be patched

Temporary fix would remove weight restrictions
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The Spokane Valley City Council told city staff to move ahead with plans to make a temporary fix to the Sullivan Road bridge so the weight restrictions can be taken off, but the city still needs to figure out how to pay the $358,000 price tag.

The bridge that carries southbound traffic over the Spokane River has been deteriorating for years and early this year weight restrictions were imposed, forcing some heavy trucks to detour. “We recognize the weight restrictions are having an impact on businesses,” said senior engineer Steve Worley.

A consultant proposed eight different solutions for the bridge problem that ranged from closing the bridge to all traffic to putting a temporary bridge on top of the existing bridge. The recommended option is to add steel to reinforce the support girders that have cracks in them. A steel plate would be placed under the girder and then bolted to the bridge deck, Worley said.

All the options are just temporary fixes, he said. “They are not intended to be permanent,” he said. “We’re not trying to rehab the bridge. We’re not trying to fix the whole thing.”

The proposed fix would allow the city to lift the weight restrictions while it finds more funding sources to replace the bridge, which is estimated to cost $20 million. The city is about to begin the environmental review process construction could start in 2014 if additional funding is secured, Worley said.

Council members questioned the time it will take to do the temporary repairs, which is estimated at six or seven months. That includes putting the project out to bid as well as the actual repair work. “We were being conservative on that,” Worley said. “We hope we can get it done in less than that.”

The bridge is due for its annual inspection in early October, and that may uncover more problems that need to be addressed, Worley said. It would then take several weeks before the inspection report is complete.

Councilman Chuck Hafner said the city should move ahead with the temporary fix that has been identified. “Let’s get going on it,” he said. “I think it’s an emergency situation.”

Councilman Dean Grafos said that during recent construction it seemed to work well to have one lane of northbound traffic and one lane of southbound traffic routed on the east bridge, which is newer and in good condition. “I think we just run that traffic one lane until we get that fixed,” he said.

Worley said that the only reason the traffic flowed smoothly during construction was because the traffic light at Sullivan and Indiana was turned off. Left and right turns were also restricted. In 2008 traffic counts showed that over 21,000 cars a day were using the Sullivan corridor, he said. “That’s a lot of traffic to put into one lane in each direction,” he said.

“Do we have the $358,000?” said Hafner. “Where are we going to get it?”

City Manager Mike Jackson said he would likely recommend that the council fund the repairs from the Street Capital Improvement Fund. The fund was created to pay for street preservation projects and currently has $1 million in it. “Right now I think that would be the best source of funding,” he said.

In other business, the council finished its examination of the proposed Bike and Pedestrian Master Program. At a meeting in August several council members objected to the language in the plan because they were worried it would establish a mandate the city would be required to meet. They suggested many changes, including replacing words like “ensure” with “encourage.” This week’s discussion continued on the same path, with council members asking to replace “will” with “could.”

Senior planner Mike Basinger said he had incorporated council members’ comments into a revised plan. “I believe the suggestions have resulted in a more clean and practical program,” he said.

Councilman Arne Woodard had several wording suggestions and objected to one section of the plan that read “developing and encouraging use of an overall bike and pedestrian system is on ongoing effort.” “Something about that statement doesn’t read right to me,” Woodard said. “If it’s an effort, why are we doing it?”

A few council members suggested changing the word “effort” to “process.” “It’s just a broad statement,” said Grafos. “I don’t see a problem with that.”

Woodard said he wasn’t trying to be overly critical. “I could just be over sensitized because of what we started with,” he said. “I’m much more comfortable with this than when we started.”


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