The aroma of toasting waffles heralded the beginning of road construction season in Spokane on Monday.
Mayor David Condon announced at a news conference Monday morning outside Waffles Plus – one of several dozen businesses lining the stretch of North Monroe Street that will be rebuilt this year with fewer lanes – that work on the divisive project will commence April 2. Thousands of commuters heading downtown will be rerouted to Post Street during the construction, which will take place in two phases with two separate contractors, intended to speed the work.
“We’re one week away from the start of major work that will revitalize this key business sector, and corridor,” Condon said.
The $8.75 million North Monroe project makes up a major chunk of the planned $67 million in new construction that will begin this year, Condon said. That work also includes repaving of Mission Avenue near Gonzaga University that already has begun, a new roundabout at Five Mile and Strong roads and repaving of the rutted span of Government Way headed out of downtown onto the West Plains.
The focus Monday was on the 1.1-mile stretch of Monroe, work that will be funded in part by state and federal traffic safety grants. In addition to the lane reduction, there will be sidewalk improvements, wider on-street parking, a wider center lane and intersection changes intended to slow speeding traffic.
Dale Westhaver, owner of the Waffles Plus eatery at Monroe and Chelan Avenue, said he initially had concerns about the two-travel-lane design but has worked with the city to make his worries known.
“I’ve been right in the middle of the whole thing,” said Westhaver, whose business is on the far northern reach of the first phase of construction. Once a four-block area is completed, workers will shift closures south. One crossroad will be open to traffic on both the northern and southern reaches of the construction area.
Post Street will be the side road, and city crews will work to restripe that road this week and begin placing signs directing commuters to businesses lining the corridor.
“It’s going to be a long seven months,” said Westhaver. “But we’ve been planning on it.”
The city is working with the marketing firm Rogue Heart Media, a proponent of the street work and one of the other businesses on the street, to develop a marketing plan for the firms affected by construction. Westhaver has plans to apply for some of the $150,000 in facade improvements that will be made available through grants from the city, possibly adding an awning onto his single-story, home-cooking themed restaurant.
Work is expected to conclude on North Monroe by the end of this construction season.
In the meantime, the city will continue to fill potholes throughout town, said Gary Kaesemeyer, head of the city’s streets department. As of Thursday, 2,274 potholes have been filled this year, according to the city. Nearly 4,800 were filled last year.
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