April 8, 2013 in City

Getting There: Businesses pinched by work on Francis

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Jeff Toole, owner of Tobacco, Beer & More at 3123 E. Francis Ave., looks out onto his empty parking lot Thursday as he waits for customers to make their way through the severely restricted construction zone.
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Merchants in the vicinity of Market Street and Francis Avenue are feeling the double-whammy of two major road projects going on side by side.

“It’s been pretty horrible,” said Jeff Toole, owner of Tobacco, Beer & More at 3123 E. Francis Ave.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has hired Graham Construction & Management of Spokane to rebuild the intersection as part of a larger project to erect a new overpass bridge to make room for the North Spokane Corridor just east of Market. The cost is $14 million.

At the same time, the city of Spokane has Inland Asphalt Co. of Spokane rebuilding the section of Francis from Crestline to Haven Street at a cost of $4.3 million.

The result has been severe traffic restrictions in the area.

Last week, flaggers were being used to control traffic. No vehicles are allowed on Francis west of Market. Crews have ripped out the asphalt and are preparing a new road bed.

Merchants said they’ve seen their sales drop by 20 to 30 percent and even more on some days.

M.J. Halverson, owner of the Hillyard Dollar Depot, 3121 E. Francis Ave., said he was forced to lay off an employee.

Toole said he cut hours for his workers and has been putting in extra time at the store himself to save on overhead.

His sales are down 20 to 30 percent as well, he said.

Their businesses are located in a strip mall at the northwest corner of the intersection. Customers are forced to find open driveways at either end of the development.

One customer described the situation as “a game of hop scotch or worse.”

The business owners said they are hoping customers will make the extra effort to help them stay afloat during the hardship.

Contractors have put up signs directing drivers to access points.

Toole said he was told that access to his store should be restored in about a month.

Al Gilson, WSDOT spokesman, said the projects were undertaken simultaneously to reduce the length of the disruption rather than running two projects separately.

“We had a meeting and we told the merchants what was going to happen,” he said. “We coordinated so both projects were underway at the same time.”

Toole said, “I think they could have planned a little better.”

But he added that workers for Graham Construction “have been great to work with.”

Halverson said, “It’ll be good when it is done, but they are making it hard for people to get in here.”

Transit planning

The public is invited to an open house on Wednesday on future transit and transportation developments in the Spokane area.

Local government agencies are providing a comprehensive look at transportation planning for the next few decades.

The open house is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St.

The Spokane Transit Authority has identified four corridors that could one day provide enhanced service in what the agency calls high-performance transit.

The corridors would support higher numbers of riders so that buses could run frequently from early morning to later at night. The routes could be linked to residential growth and serve areas already experiencing heavy transit use.

The corridors under evaluation are Cheney to downtown; North Division Street; a cross-town route from North Monroe Street to South Regal Street; and a Spokane Valley route to Liberty Lake.

Recommendations for the routes came from the work of advisory panels.

Also during the open house, the public can see plans for additional park-and-ride facilities, bus shelter upgrades, a south commuter line and other improvements.

STA ridership is at an all-time high and is expected to grow from the 11 million trips taken on buses last year.

Along with STA, the Spokane Regional Transportation Council will present its Horizon 2040 plan for all types of transportation in coming years. It is part of an update of the agency’s metropolitan transportation plan, a requirement for federal funding.

The city of Spokane will also provide details on its proposed update of transportation and design standards that could become part of the city’s comprehensive land use plan to guide future development.

New traffic cameras

In Spokane Valley, crews are installing lines on Sprague Avenue between Evergreen and Sullivan roads along the westbound curb. In addition, the lines are going into Sullivan Road from Sprague to Interstate 90 in the northbound curb lane. Lane closures for the installation will start this week and last through mid-May.

When completed, the lines can be hooked to traffic cameras and linked to the SRTC’s traffic management center. Spokane-area traffic cameras can be viewed at srtmc.org.

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