After nearly a decade and a half of planning, construction has begun on a project to convert an old railroad bridge near Gonzaga University into a path for trail users.
The city and Iron Bridge developer Kent Hull struggled since 1998 to finalize design and funding plans to build a deck allowing pedestrians and cyclists bridge access to the Centennial Trail across the Spokane River from the Iron Bridge Office Park on Trent Avenue.
But a resolution prevailed when the city selected a bid for $822,000 from Wesslen Construction Inc. in April. The project officially kicked off just weeks ago and construction is set to wrap up by the end of August, Hull said.
“I’m finally happy to see the dang thing getting done here,” he said.
Throughout the summer, crews will create a new path with a concrete deck covered in asphalt, install railings along the sides, and clean and paint the underside of the bridge to keep the original lead paint from flaking off.
The project also relies on several other funding sources, including $354,000 from the Recreation and Conservation Office and $602,000 from the federal government, according to Katherine Miller, the city’s senior engineer.
City engineer Mike Taylor said he is excited to see the project take off after years of trying to work out finances.
“It’s going to be a nice connection across the river,” Taylor said.
An earlier plan called for an ironwood deck instead of concrete. But the idea failed to win the approval of the city out of concern for wear and tear.
Hull liked the ironwood design, he said, because it would have better retained the original character of the bridge. Going forward with concrete put the project over-budget, further pushing back its start date.
“What made me mad is that it delayed the project another year and a half,” Hull said, “and then they threw out $30,000 worth of engineering we had to redo.”
The city found ways to cut certain costs out of the project, which included scrapping plans to paint the entire bridge and install lights along the top. Painting the whole bridge was projected to cost $1.6 million.
Hull planned to arrange for a subcontractor to fit the bridge with antique lighting, but that plan was dropped to save money. The early May slaying of a woman along nearby Tuffy’s Trail, however, has left Hull concerned about safety and wanting to get lighting onto the bridge at some point.