The Spokane City Council on Tuesday gave another endorsement to build a 120-foot-tall pedestrian suspension bridge linking Washington State University Spokane to East Sprague Avenue.
The council already accepted $3.1 million of state money to design the bridge and buy needed property. And it has backed the suspension bridge concept. On Tuesday, the council voted 6-1 to spend $1.4 million of the state money on a contract to design the bridge.
Supporters say it will create a vibrant link between a growing campus and an underperforming commercial area along East Sprague, Second and Third avenues. Brandon Rapez-Betty, the University District Project manager, testified that the bridge will be a catalyst to promote growth of residential and commercial projects serving the campus south of the BNSF railroad tracks it will cross.
Most people testifying offered strong support for the bridge. Real estate agents said they know of businesses waiting for the bridge to invest in the neighborhood. Campus administrators said students and employees need better routes to work and that the bridge would open up the neighborhood to more students.
The project is estimated to cost about $14 million, including about $8 million for construction.
Rapez-Betty listed recent pedestrian bridge projects in Tacoma, Denver and other cities that had similar costs.
But Spokane resident George McGrath, a regular council attendee, told the council that the bridge would be a waste of money going “from nowhere to Hookerville.” The line got a hearty laugh from Mark Hamilton, a City Council candidate who hopes to represent that neighborhood. Hamilton earlier testified against the bridge and said the area is dangerous and “crime-ridden” and that “we don’t need to feed the dying horse.”
Councilman Mike Fagan cast the lone vote against the contract. He said it’s a poor time to spend money on the bridge because many aspects of “Obamacare,” the new federal health care law, are being implemented. He believes the law will hurt most Americans.
“Frankly, I have no trust in our federal-level leadership,” Fagan said.
But the other council members have embraced the concept, even though some said they initially questioned the cost.
“I’m convinced that this is a project where we will get bang for our buck,” Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said.