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Proposed pedestrian bridge would loom large over skyline

Sun., July 7, 2013, midnight

Perhaps lost in the recent debate about a proposed pedestrian bridge in Spokane’s University District is its massiveness.

It wouldn’t be an inconspicuous walkway like the three pedestrian bridges over Interstate 90 east of downtown. Nor is it much like the quaint-by-comparison pedestrian suspension bridges in Riverfront Park. 

Instead, the bridge concept endorsed by the Spokane City Council is a 120-foot-tall cable-stayed arch bridge. Although plenty of buildings are taller than that in Spokane, it would dominate the skyline east of downtown at Washington State University Spokane.

 Cable-stayed bridges have grown in popularity in recent years. This one, however, would be unique in the United States, perhaps even in this hemisphere, as a cable-stayed bridge supported by an arch.

“It really is intended to catch people’s eye,” said Katherine Miller, the city’s principal engineer, who led a public process to select the location and design of the bridge.

Critics have questioned the cost, estimated to be as high as $16 million, close to or even more than many recent local projects for bridges carrying cars. About half the cost would be for construction and the rest for engineering, purchasing property and other expenses.

University leaders and many city leaders say the cost is worth it. They want more students living near the Riverpoint campus, but they don’t plan to build dorms. They hope an improved pedestrian link over the BNSF Railway tracks will make the land south of the tracks an attractive investment for residential developers.

Last month, the council approved a $1.3 million contract to design the bridge. It will be covered by a $3.1 million state grant also expected to buy much of the property needed for the project.

The arch was not picked for any symbolic value other than its grandness, said Brandon Rapez-Betty, University District project manager for the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

“It was meant to be a loud, iconic statement to help send a message that the University District is a major opportunity for economic development,” he said.

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