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Martin Luther King Jr. Way to open in spring

Spokane’s new Martin Luther King Jr. Way won’t be complete by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

City officials had hoped the new road, which is the extension of Riverside Avenue east of Division Street through the University District, would be open by Monday’s holiday. But City Engineer Mike Taylor said last week that construction was slowed throughout the year by an unexpected amount of basalt that had to be removed.

A final layer of pavement, landscaping and the installation of irrigation remains to be completed before the project is done.

“We just need to do it right,” Taylor said. “This is too important to do poorly.”

Taylor said the project will open in the spring. The path includes 120 trees that Taylor hopes will be blooming during a grand-opening ceremony.

Ivan Bush, co-director of the MLK Planning Committee, said the later-than-expected dedication of the street is a chance to celebrate “the spirit, the teaching and the dedication” of King beyond the holiday.

“It is my hope that the spirit of that can go on throughout the year,” said Bush, who added he’s impressed by the quality of the project.

The goal of the new roadway is to divert traffic from Spokane Falls Boulevard, which is someday expected to be the central part of the campus. The first phase of the new street that will open this year is a few blocks long and connects Riverside to Spokane Falls near the Schade Brewery building. Eventually, plans call for it to connect Riverside to Trent Avenue near the Union Gospel Mission.

In the past quarter-century, Bush and others suggested several other roadways in Spokane to name after King. They finally achieved success in 2009 when the Spokane City Council unanimously approved naming the Riverside extension after King.

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