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MLK Jr. Way opens Thursday

U-District street to honor leader’s legacy

It may have taken more than four decades, but Spokane drivers will be able to motor down their own Martin Luther King Jr. Way for the first time this week.

The city is hosting an opening ceremony for King Way on Thursday at 11 a.m. near the Riverpoint Campus east of downtown. The public is invited.

The event at Pine Street on the newly built roadway is planned as a fitting reminder of the legacy of the slain civil rights leader, who died in 1968.

King’s favorite dessert was said to be pecan pie, so the city is springing for 200 servings of pecan tartlets to sweeten the ceremony and commemorate King’s legacy, said Ann Deasy, city spokeswoman.

The $3.8 million project has taken more than a year to build. It provides an extension to Riverside Avenue east of Division Street.

The fact that it runs through the city’s expanding University District is one of the reasons it was named after King, who was a strong advocate of education.

“Having it in the University District, it seemed a natural,” Deasy said.

Earlier attempts to rename Spokane streets after King ran into trouble because of the cost and inconvenience of changing business and residential addresses along proposed routes.

Spokane’s King Way is a completely new street, solving the renaming problem.

It will serve as a bypass around the heart of the University District on Spokane Falls Boulevard.

The first phase will carry traffic from Division and Riverside eastward to Sherman Street, which will connect drivers to a realigned segment of Spokane Falls Boulevard east of Division.

Eventually, King Way will continue eastward along the south side of the Spokane River and under Hamilton Street, and will join Trent Avenue near Erie Street.

The street includes spacious walkways, a park-like space next to Division and landscaping with 120 trees. The route also has room to add a rail transit system.

Thursday’s ceremony will feature drummers and dancers from Grant Elementary School, remarks from dignitaries and a closing hymn.

Ivan Bush and the Rev. Happy Watkins are among the listed speakers.

Singer Martin Herford is scheduled to do a rendition of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” which was King’s favorite song.

Planning for the event is a cooperative effort of representatives from the city, Inland Northwest Associated General Contractors, Washington State University and the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center and community volunteers.

The Spokane City Council approved naming the street after King during the planning phase in 2009. At the time, about 770 other communities had already named streets after King.

North Spokane Corridor

Market Street in the vicinity of Parksmith Drive will be reduced to a single lane of traffic in each direction Thursday through June 8.

Workers are building a new interchange for the North Spokane Corridor at Parksmith. The work has closed Stoneman Road east of Market.

Also, at the north end of the new freeway, work has caused U.S. Highway 395 to be reduced to one lane in each direction.

I-90 nighttime lane closures

Final paving on the widening of Interstate 90 from Sullivan to Barker roads is forcing evening and nighttime lane closures for both eastbound and westbound traffic.

Plant seeding on Highway 2

Work to seed new plants along U.S. Highway 2 from Reardan to Creston is going to force lane closures where the work is occurring. Flaggers will direct traffic through the work sites.

Valley construction

In Spokane Valley, the eastbound lane of Mission Avenue at the Flora Road roundabout will be closed today through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. to install sidewalk ramps.

At Sprague Avenue and Fancher Road, traffic eastbound and southbound will be limited to one lane in each direction from 7 a.m. through about noon Sunday.

The area is undergoing traffic changes to make room for a new Wal-Mart. Backups have been reported as a result.

Farther east, the north side of Sprague Avenue from the 14900 block eastward to Sullivan Road is undergoing reconstruction, limiting traffic to one lane in each direction and at intersections.

University Road from Sprague to 16th Avenue also has lane restrictions because of construction there.

Weight restrictions lifted

Weight restrictions have been lifted on rural roads in Spokane County now that spring weather has allowed the road beds to dry out and return to a firm condition.

The county engineer’s office announced the lifting of the restrictions last week.