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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Open house sheds little light on freeway

‘I’ve got more questions than answers at this point’

Kristina Johnson The Spokesman-Review
They came hoping for answers. But many left an open house on Spokane’s proposed north-south freeway Thursday feeling more confused than enlightened. “I’ve got more questions than answers at this point,” said Mary Snavely, whose Mead home may - or may not - lay next to a proposed freeway on-ramp. “I’m so frustrated,” said Cherie Kubu, who lives in the path of one proposed route. “I thought we would walk out of here finally knowing something. “If you can even get up to the maps, you can’t make heads or tails of what they’re talking about.” Northwood Middle School’s gymnasium filled with bodies and emotion during the two-hour meeting that drew at least 500 people. “A lot more than expected,” said a state Department of Transportation staffer standing by the sign-in table. Aerial photos and charts bordered the room, and a handful of DOT engineers stood by to answer questions. People hoping to find out where their homes are in relation to red and blue lines on maps waited patiently (and some not so patiently) for a viewing spot. “One line goes through my house,” said a woman. “The other goes through mine,” said a man. Recent pledges of state money are turning 50 years of wishful talk about a freeway into serious discussions. DOT’s open house was designed to glean public comment on proposed changes to the route that has been widely circulated the past seven years. The commonly anticipated route follows railroad right-of-way along-side the Market-Greene Street corridor. The proposed roadway then angles west at Hawthorne and Market, going south of Northwood Middle School to link with U.S. 295 near Wandermere Golf Course. New maps propose changes to the freeway’s alignment near the north end, moving the freeway north of Northwood to run parallel to Garden Avenue. Other changes include moving the freeway slightly west between Francis and Hawthorne. Several people at the open house felt blindsided by the proposed changes. “For seven years, we went to the meetings. We made ourselves aware,” said a woman who recently learned she lived next to the alternate route. The woman joined a group of nearly 15 other people surrounding DOT Project Engineer Keith Martin, pelting him with questions. Martin told the group the DOT favors the changes because fewer homes and businesses would be disrupted than with the old route. “Is the freeway going to affect where you live?” shot back another woman. “We have to make an objective comparison,” Martin said. DOT’s regional director, Jerry Lenzi, said he knew the meeting would stir strong feelings. “Homes are sacred,” he said, adding that no single route could please everyone. Several people said they felt frustrated that DOT didn’t give a formal presentation with a question-and-answer period. Others who always thought they lived in the freeway’s path said they were dismayed to learn a new route might not even touch them. They’d lived in limbo for years only to find out they might be staying put. But even then, they couldn’t be sure. “We don’t want to put any money into our property,” Kubu said. “We don’t want to lose our investment.” DOT officials said they’ll spend the next several months trying to decide which route is better, with plans to hold public hearings on design and access issues later this year. Lenzi said the informal meeting format is meant to generate comments from people who might otherwise be too shy to speak at a public hearing. As for definitive answers about whose house will go and whose will stay, “We can’t tell you that until we choose an alignment,” he said.
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