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Spokane begins its construction ‘busy season’

Before you get angry that a section of Northwest Boulevard will be closed for an entire year, count to 10.

Actually, count to 43, because that’s how many city of Spokane projects are planned for this year’s construction season, which began Monday just south of the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and West Garland Avenue.

“It’s going to be a busy season,” said Mayor David Condon, noting the year’s projects will total $73 million and range from street maintenance to pollution mitigation to building new bikeways, sidewalks and roads.

The work begins with the installation of a 900,000-gallon storage tank for stormwater and sewage on a bluff overlooking the city’s Riverside State Park Reclamation Facility. The tank is part of the city’s effort to keep pollution out of the Spokane River. A similar-size tank was built near the intersection of 21st Avenue and Ray Street on the South Hill last year.

The city is offering a $30,000 incentive to Clearwater Construction, the company doing the storage tank work on Northwest Boulevard, if it can finish before winter arrives. If not, the work won’t be complete until spring 2016.

The city will begin beautification work at the Division Street entrance to downtown at Interstate 90 at the end of this month.

The first of the city’s street levy projects will also begin this year, notably with a major undertaking on the South Monroe Street hill and the first phase of reconstruction of Rowan Avenue from Driscoll Boulevard to Monroe Street.

Other 2015 projects funded by the street levy, which passed in November with 77 percent of the vote, include work on South Havana Street, High Drive, East Francis Avenue and South Ray Street.

The second of phase of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be completed, connecting the University District road to North Erie Street underneath the Hamilton Street overpass. Erie will be paved, offering a new connection between the U-District, East Sprague and East Trent Avenue.

The city is also doing a lot of work on trails, sidewalks and bikeways. The contested Ben Burr Trail will run next to part of the MLK extension, connecting Underhill Park in East Central to the Centennial Trail in the University District. The primitive trail will be lengthened, widened and paved, which has upset some of the trail’s neighbors.

The city will start work on a bicycle and pedestrian corridor in north Spokane, primarily by installing bike lanes and sidewalks. Beginning at the intersection of North Colton Street and East Holland Avenue, the corridor will wind its way south about 5 miles to the intersection of West Buckeye Avenue and North Atlantic Street. The Downtown Bicycle Network will be completed this summer.

The unseasonably warm weather has allowed the city to begin work early on these projects, though Kyle Twohig, the city’s engineering operations manager, said the city didn’t add extra projects to the list.

“Our project load isn’t really weather dependent,” he said, adding that the earlier crews begin, the earlier the projects can wrap up before the end of construction season, which typically lands on Nov. 1. That gives workers about eight months. But as this spring shows, the weather is unpredictable.

“We don’t like to dance too close to that line,” Twohig said.


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