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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Getting There

Mending downtown Spokane’s sidewalks

Chris Pederson cleans off the sidewalk at Indiana and Wall in Spokane, Wash., after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.  (Photo Archive/Spokesman-Review)
Chris Pederson cleans off the sidewalk at Indiana and Wall in Spokane, Wash., after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. (Photo Archive/Spokesman-Review)

If you've ever walked around downtown Spokane, you won't be surprised to hear that the sidewalks are broken. Like really broken, deteriorating and hazardous, especially if you've got your nose buried in a smartphone.

It may surprise you to hear that there's $40 million worth of repair needed for the sidewalks. The city has come up with a way to pay for such work. By using parking fund revenue, state grants and some cooperation from property owners, strolling on the walkways in the city's core may soon be cakewalk.

From the city:

Many of the vaulted sidewalks downtown are nearly 100 years old. Originally used for deliveries, utilities or as just extra space for the building, these sidewalks are more like small bridges than sidewalks and have gradually deteriorated over time. This deterioration has left the city holding a $40 million dollar repair bill and the city hasn't had a funding stream to tackle the needed repairs – until now.

Sidewalk maintenance and repair is generally the responsibility of the owner of the adjacent property, but it's not a cheap fix and replacing a structural sidewalk can be an extreme financial burden for the property owner. With these vaulted sidewalks posing a potential hazard to public safety, the city is stepping up to make sure these aging sidewalks are safe and more appealing for shoppers, tenants, employees and other visitors to downtown Spokane. Utilizing parking meter revenues as matching funds, the city secured a $2.1 million Transportation Improvement Board grant to help the city begin the long process of making repairs. This initial TIB grant project will focus on filling the vaulted spaces and repairing the walking surfaces as well as replacing any impacted street trees and tree grates.

We're also partnering with property owners who are directly impacted by sections of unsafe sidewalk. The city has agreed to pay 100 percent of the cost to fill the vaulted spaces and replace the sidewalks, but property owners will then have the option to keep the vaults open and upgrade them to today's standards if they agree to pay any costs above and beyond the cost of filling the vault.

With the initial TIB grant, the city is addressing as many of the aging sections of sidewalk as possible with up to 14 having been identified for this initial work. City crews will begin with five sections of vaulted sidewalk that are in need of immediate repairs.

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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