An idea to build an Interstate 90 overpass at University Road drew strong opinions from area residents on Wednesday. A standing-room-only crowd filled a meeting room at the Spokane Valley Fire Department Administration Building and spilled into the lobby.
Some were adamantly against an overpass of any kind while others wanted a full bridge for cars, pedestrians and cyclists. Others said they were only comfortable with a pedestrian/cyclist overpass, citing concerns about increased traffic in the residential neighborhoods along University on both sides of the freeway.
Paul Dicks was among those firmly opposed to a vehicular overpass. “We’d lose eight homes at least,” he said. Others would lose a chunk of their yards and driveways. “We have a huge amount of kids there,” he said. “They play on the roads, they play in the yards.”
Even a pedestrian overpass might bring increased crime as the neighborhood is working on improving itself, he said. “We used to have a lot of crime there,” he said. “It took us a long time to get it cleaned up.”
Spokane Valley senior traffic engineer Inga Note explained that the city is only doing a study on whether an overpass is needed at University Road and if so, whether it should serve pedestrians, cyclists, cars, or all three. No construction project is being planned. “It’s an idea,” she said. “We want to get your thoughts on it.”
She also stressed that any overpass would not connect to I-90. One of reasons the city is looking at the idea is because cyclists have repeatedly complained that they don’t have enough north/south routes across the freeway, she said. Other options also include improving the Argonne and Pines corridors to make them wider and add space for pedestrians and bicyclists, she said.
Resident Bill Laugan wasn’t convinced that the city would only put in a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. “There’s no way they’re just going to put a bike route,” he said. “I don’t believe that for a heartbeat.”
A vehicle overpass would destroy the neighborhood, he said, and he doesn’t believe there is enough justification to build an overpass to serve bicyclists for a few months out of the year. “I just have a problem believing there’s a lot of bike traffic,” Laugan said.
Gary Walter pointed out that an overpass at University Road would cut through Spalding Auto Parts and that any bike route would essentially end shortly thereafter. “If you come up there, there’s no easy way to get to the Centennial Trail,” he said.
The audience broke into groups to discuss what they wanted to see done and what concerns they had. All the groups suggested making improvements to the Argonne and Pines corridors, either instead of an overpass or in addition to one. Several groups said they had no problems with a pedestrian overpass, but suggested putting it at Bowdish Road instead to allow easier access to Valley Mission Park.
“I’m the crazy cyclist that goes up Argonne,” said Chris Pierce. He has a strong preference for improving the Argonne overpass and isn’t sure if a University overpass would help, he said. Bicyclists would still have to find their way across the BNSF tracks. “You have to make sure it doesn’t die at the railroad tracks,” he said. “We don’t want a road to nowhere even if it’s nice.”
Barbara Witkoe said her group had mixed feelings about a vehicle overpass at University, citing concerns about the impact of increased traffic on the neighborhood. “We like the idea of a vehicle path that doesn’t connect to the freeway,” she said.
“To me it’s more economical to do Argonne or Pines,” said resident Evonne Haverfield.
Another public meeting on the University Road overpass study will be scheduled in the fall.