Changing the design of the southern part of the North Spokane Corridor – making it a boulevard rather than a freeway – was one of the ideas that arose from a workshop last week.
Participants were asked to brainstorm ways to make Spokane’s transportation system friendlier to neighborhoods and their residents.
Spokane City Councilwoman Amber Waldref, who didn’t attend the session, said it’s unlikely that the long-planned freeway’s design would be changed at this late date.
Funding to finish the project came through in the 2015 legislative session, and it’s under construction. It’s designed to be a high-speed, multilane freeway with elevated sections south of the Spokane River, including ramps to connect it with Interstate 90.
Waldref said she was more intrigued by the idea of building a land bridge over I-90 at Liberty Park. Workshop participants pondered that possibility with the extension of Liberty Park connecting the two sides of the freeway and providing new recreation and leisure opportunities linked to a trail network.
“I hope it is the beginning of communication with the neighborhoods as we move forward,” she said.
The workshop came to Spokane after the city won a grant from a special program of the U.S. Department of Transportation that emphasizes neighborhood-friendly transportation systems.
The Every Place Counts Design Challenge is a federally funded initiative to “reconnect neighborhoods and improve community health, mobility and opportunity.” It stems in part from acknowledgment that freeways historically have divided neighborhoods, such as I-90 did through East Central.
Spokane was one of four cities selected to participate in the program with a two-day workshop led by the federal engineers and a consultant. About 60 people attended, including local officials and neighborhood leaders. A final report is expected in a few weeks.
Another idea that came out of the session was to start construction of the Children of the Sun trail planned for the North Spokane Corridor as soon as possible and use it to create small parks.
Linking parks and trails would establish an open-space system and recreational loop, according to a recap of the workshop.
Richard Burris, president of the Greater Hillyard Business Association, said he was struck by the number of ideas that came from the discussions.
He’s an advocate of making people-friendly spaces between the Hillyard business district and the North Spokane Corridor, which is part of U.S. Highway 395.
David Griswold, president of the Hillyard Community Futures organization, said the idea of converting the corridor to a boulevard from Hillyard to I-90 may damage the availability of funding for the project by delaying its construction.
State transportation officials said they are on a tight timeline to build the corridor in its current design by 2029.
City Councilwoman Candace Mumm said she supports rethinking transportation projects to help neighborhoods. But the U.S. 395 corridor is intended to speed up freight mobility from north to south, she said.
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