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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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North Monroe project hits bumps; some business owners concerned

This photo, taken June 11, 2013, is looking south on North Monroe St. towards the intersection of Indiana and Northwest Blvd. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
This photo, taken June 11, 2013, is looking south on North Monroe St. towards the intersection of Indiana and Northwest Blvd. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A $7 million project to remake North Monroe Street north of Indiana Avenue has run into opposition from business owners.

Spokane city officials are proposing to turn the four-lane arterial into a three-lane street with one through lane in each direction and a center turn lane.

The proposal would allow for improved sidewalks and wider on-street parking, and increase pedestrian safety, officials said.

The proposal involves the stretch from Indiana Avenue north to Kiernan Avenue at the top of the North Hill.

But the Monroe Street Business Association has come out against the so-called “road diet” to reduce the number of travel lanes.

The organization is concerned about loss of business during construction closures, backups behind buses, reduced traffic through the commercial area and increased travel times.

The group is planning a rally at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at Skippers restaurant, 3320 N. Monroe St., to voice its opposition.

“It’s a terrible project,” said Gary Jarvis, association president and owner-operator of Skippers.

He said a poll of the business association showed 52 people were against the project.

A similar project on East Sprague Avenue has enjoyed support of business owners there.

Three-lane arterials are considered appropriate for thoroughfares handling fewer than 24,000 vehicles a day, said Marlene Feist, director of strategic development for city utilities.

She said Monroe currently carries 16,000 vehicles a day through the 1.1-mile stretch.

The city has been working with a nine-member advisory committee made up of residents, business owners and others.

Feist said one of the bigger issues has been a plan to allow buses to remain in the travel lane when picking up and dropping off passengers.

The current proposal would reduce the number of bus stops from four to three. It would also eliminate a traffic light at Montgomery Avenue.

Together, those changes are intended to help maintain travel times through the corridor even if buses are allowed to load and unload in the travel lanes.

Feist said a study of bus movements through the corridor shows a potential delay of 14 to 40 seconds during the evening commute period, but only when a bus is moving through the area. The buses run every 15 minutes.

“For us, the project is about balance,” she said.

A 5-year-old girl was killed in 2013 trying to cross Monroe in the area slated for improvements.

The street itself is in need of repair and at some point, the work will have to be done, Feist said.

City officials are proposing construction by sections of several blocks at a time, rather than closing the whole stretch.

Jarvis said he is concerned that slowing vehicle traffic through the area and restricting lanes could become a problem if an evacuation of downtown is ever needed.

He said he also is concerned about traffic from trucks and other vehicles circulating through adjacent residential areas during construction.

“The businesses on Monroe are in support of safety improvements, but do not believe that chopping up the street is the answer,” a news release from the business association states.

Spokane projects

In Spokane, 37th Avenue from Freya to Custer streets is open following major construction this year.

One westbound lane on Spokane Falls Boulevard will be closed at River Park Square on Friday, Saturday, and Dec. 23 and 24.

Traffic lights are operating and all lanes are open on Monroe and Lincoln streets from Main to Second avenues following a prolonged construction period.

Final paving on the project will occur next spring.

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