Frustration and support for a proposed pedestrian bridge in the University District area came to a head Tuesday night at a public forum hosted by city officials and contractors.
The 120-foot-tall bridge, which would dominate the skyline east of downtown, would connect the Washington State University Spokane campus to the East Central neighborhood over the railroad tracks. The total cost is estimated to be as high as $16 million.
About 30 people attended the open house at the WSU Spokane campus Tuesday, meeting with engineers, developers and other leaders of the project. A few impromptu debates began over the project and its future funding sources.
Developers and supporters tout the project’s increased connectivity to downtown businesses and activities, saying the expense is worth the long-term benefit to downtown.
“The scale and cost of this project is consistent with projects in other areas,” said Brandon Rapez-Betty, program manager for the Downtown Spokane Partnership.
Patricia Kienholz, who lives downtown, said she wants the neighborhood to become a place in which developers want to invest.
“I want to see people make money here,” Kienholz said.
Without a connection between the neighborhood and Riverpoint campus, there’s little incentive for developers to build apartment buildings or businesses in the area, Kienholz added.
However, critics said the projected $14 million to $16 million price tag is too expensive for a pedestrian bridge.
Scott Kusel, a contractor who lives in East Central, said he supports the idea of greater access between the two neighborhoods, but that access shouldn’t be confined to walkers and bikers.
“It’s limiting,” Kusel said. “You’re not going to be moving in enough people in the area to keep it safe.”
Kusel said he’d likely support the project, even at a higher price tag, if it included new driving lanes. Otherwise, he said, money should be spent on better development projects throughout the city.
“I’m not against change,” Kusel said. “But this particular change is not good.”
The bridge concept has been endorsed by the Spokane City Council. Planning and development for the project are underway, with planning slated to be finished next year.
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