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Doomsday Hill open for Bloomsday, but city construction projects will reroute Spokefest

Runners start  up  Doomsday Hill during Bloomsday 2015 on Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Runners start up Doomsday Hill during Bloomsday 2015 on Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Mile 5. Doomsday Hill. The vulture. All things that are part of everyone’s least favorite section of the Bloomsday Run. For those hoping the course will be diverted around Doomsday due to the construction on Pettet Drive, keep hoping.

A complete rebuild of Pettet Drive, otherwise known as Doomsday Hill, won’t change the Bloomsday run this weekend, and the new road will be ready for next year’s race. But major construction projects, including Doomsday’s rebuild and a major renovation of Riverfront Park, will affect most of Spokane’s iconic events.

Doomsday’s work, for instance, will prevent cyclists from pedaling up the dreaded hill this September for Spokefest. Though cyclists will avoid the hill, the diverted route will instead force them up the steeper T.J. Meenach Drive to Northwest Boulevard.

Like much of the construction happening in town, the Pettet project is part of the city’s work to stop pollutants from going into the river, as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Much of Spokane’s wastewater system is made up of combined sewers that handle both stormwater and sanitary sewage. When it rains, the system is overwhelmed and overflow is piped untreated into the river. The tanks are designed to capture that overflow and send it to the treatment plant.

The 700,000-gallon Pettet tank will be built into the hillside overlooking Doomsday, and the $7 million project began last month. The major surface work, however, has waited for Bloomsday and its nearly 50,000 participants.

“We had a plan to accommodate Bloomsday, because it’s such a big event,” said Marlene Feist, spokeswoman for the city’s utilities department. “And it will be ready for next” year.

All the large construction equipment will be moved from Pettet by Sunday, and the tank construction area will be fenced off.

When the work is complete, Doomsday will look very different from what it does today, primarily because of its designation as part of the Centennial Trail. A new path separated from traffic will run up the river-facing side of Pettet. It will be 14 feet wide and paved, filling in another gap in the Centennial Trail.

A second trail connecting the new Pettet path to the Emerson-Garfield neighborhood overlooking Doomsday will be built in 2018 as part of another project.

“This will set the stage for it,” said Brandon Blankenagel, an engineer with the city. “But it will come when we build out T.J. Meenach in 2018.”

Both trails will add new routes for Spokane cyclists. But in the meantime, and during this fall’s Spokefest, bike riders will have to face the steep slope of T.J. Meenach Drive.

Bill Bender, a neurologist who founded the annual bike ride, said the group had no choice but to detour the route.

“It’s a little bit steeper going up and there will probably be more people hoofing it,” Bender said. “But we did the best that we could.”

The Doomsday stretch isn’t the only part of Spokefest affected by city projects this year. The construction of a new ice ribbon in Riverfront Park has forced the group to begin and end in Kendall Yards, instead of near the runners statues in Riverfront Park, officially called the Joy of Running Together.

“Kendall Yards was really welcoming,” Bender said. “It’s just a minor course change.”

Feist said the city has spoken with planners of other large events, such as Hoopfest and Pig Out in the Park, that take place in or near Riverfront Park, which will see construction begin this year with the ice ribbon, a two-year project that stretches from the runners statues to the Looff Carrousel.

“We’ve been talking to a lot of the big event folks because of the Riverfront Park construction projects,” Feist said. “We’ve been prepping folks that these things are coming, and to give them enough time to find an alternative.”


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