September 26, 2011 in City

Getting There: Second Avenue open for business

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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There was plenty of reason to celebrate at Second Avenue and Browne Street last week.

For the past two years, traffic on Second Avenue has been hampered by reconstruction work – as has business for merchants along the street.

Last week, the work on Second from Division to Howard streets was finished. The new blacktop is smooth, and the white and yellow lines are fresh and easy to see.

Now business owners are waiting for customers to return.

“I think people are still kind of wary of downtown,” said Melody Padrta, who co-owns the Marketplace Wine Bar at Second and Browne.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know we are here,” she said.

The business shares space in a 21,000-square-foot building with the fledgling Spokane Public Market and Sun People Dry Goods Co., which sells sustainable and organic products.

Mayor Mary Verner was scheduled to attend the market’s grand opening Saturday, partly to mark the completion of $4 million in work on Second Avenue that started in spring of 2010.

Verner said in a news release last week she understood the hardship on Second Avenue businesses.

“We are pleased to join with the businesses along Second Avenue in welcoming citizens to a renovated street that will serve our community well into the future,” the mayor said.

Funding for the street reconstruction came from a bond issue approved by voters in 2004.

Other bond projects completed this year include Hatch Road from 57th Avenue and Perry Street to 43rd Avenue; Grand Boulevard from 29th Avenue to High Drive; Post Street from Maxwell to Cleveland avenues; and Mission Avenue from Hamilton to Greene streets.

Gas-tax funds falter

Gasoline consumption in Washington and Oregon has not increased for the past 12 years, and the trend could affect government attempts to finance highway construction projects, a Seattle-based foundation said.

Consumption increased steadily from 1950 through 1999, with a short-term drop in the 1980s. The growth fueled gasoline tax collections, which are made on a per-gallon basis.

But higher prices in recent years, the trend toward fuel-efficient vehicles, and wider shifts in public behavior ended increasing consumption, said Clark Williams-Derry, director of programs for Sightline Institute.

“That poses some puzzling questions about how we are going to maintain our infrastructure,” Williams-Derry said.

More than $1.3 billion is needed to complete the North Spokane Corridor from Francis Avenue to Interstate 90.

Statewide, big construction projects are being funded in part with toll charges.

“It used to be you could count on a 3 to 4 percent increase a year,” Williams-Derry said of gasoline taxes.

It seems people are driving fewer miles, too, with per-person gasoline consumption declining since 1990. Total vehicle miles traveled has held to about 50 billion miles a year in the two states since 2002 despite population increases.

Street improvements

Business owners and residents along the lower portions of North Monroe Street are invited to an open house to talk about improving the thoroughfare.

The event will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Empire Office Machines, 1411 N. Monroe St. Verner is scheduled to speak at 4 p.m.

The improvements would be funded from a West Quadrant Tax Increment Financing District formed in 2007 to take advantage of expected development along the north bank of the Spokane River, which will allow some increases in property taxes to be spent on improvements to public facilities.

New interchange

The Washington State Department of Transportation has received approval from Spokane for a permit to build a new interchange at U.S. Highway 195 and Cheney-Spokane Road.

The project will involve bank stabilization on a portion of the shoreline of Latah Creek. An interchange bridge will carry traffic across the highway and eliminate turn movements at what has been a dangerous intersection.

Public meeting

The Spokane Regional Transportation Council will hold a public meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the council’s offices, 221 W. First Ave. The meeting is part of a periodic certification review required by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

The meeting is a chance for the public to get involved in regional decision-making on transportation planning and projects.


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