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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Centennial Trail improvements lined up for Mission Avenue crossing

Mike Baker was walking his dog, Otis, next to the Centennial Trail during Tuesday’s spring sunshine and offered this observation about the trail crossing at Mission Avenue: “It’s confusing.”

The crosswalk is squeezed into the intersection of Mission and Perry Street next to the BNSF Railway line and the resulting confusion has been no secret.

For the past four years, trail supporters and city officials have been talking about ways to improve the crossing and make it safer.

The first phase will take place later this year after summer crowds start to thin out.

The work involves upgrading the crosswalk and trail next to Mission Park and Avista Corp.

“It’s going to be a much cleaner, safer approach,” said Loreen McFaul, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

“It’s a really important pedestrian crossing,” she said.

The long range plan is to build a trail bridge diagonally over Mission Avenue, which would fill what has long been known as the “Mission gap” in the otherwise free flowing trail.

The bridge is estimated to cost $2.5 million.

The third phase of improvement calls for putting a trail tunnel under the BNSF line where it borders Mission Park near the Spokane River to help keep trail users from crossing the tracks.

Funding for the second and third phases have not been identified.

“You can’t get those big chunks of funding overnight,” McFaul said.

McFaul said the trail is one of the top attractions in the Spokane region.

The friends organization has pledged $18,500 to pay for the first phase of the Mission crossing to go along with the $443,000 in construction from the the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, she said.

A key part of the first phase is separating an existing parking lot for Mission Park from the trail. Currently, drivers at the lot often pull onto the trail when entering or exiting.

On the north side of Mission, the plan calls for creating more room for the trail along the Avista campus.

Also, a pedestrian refuge island in the middle of Mission will be upgraded.

Chirping crosswalk signals are also likely.

The history of the trail dates back to the late 1980s when planning began for the project to commemorate the 1989 Washington Centennial.

The 37 miles of trail in Washington extends from Sontag Park at Nine Mile to the Idaho state line. There it connects with 24 miles of the North Idaho Centennial Trail through Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene to Higgens Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

While there haven’t been any injury accidents involving trail users at the Mission crossing, the risk is apparent, said Marlene Feist, city spokeswoman.

The Mission crossing is just one of numerous trail projects either under planning or construction.

Trail supporters want to team up with the Spokane Parks Department to raise funds to renovate the Kardong Bridge, a key crossing over the Spokane River at Gonzaga University.

The friends group has pledged $75,000 from its Trail Builders Fund to pay for early design work.

The steel plate that makes up part of the bridge deck is slippery during wet or icy weather. The wooden portions of the deck are aging and loose.

McFaul said the parks department is planning to raise funds to help pay for the renovation, which would include painting.

Also, a $350,000 trail maintenance project reached 80 percent completion last year. The rest of the work will be finished this season.

Funding for that work came from contributions of the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley, Spokane County and the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission, the friends group said.

After that, trail supporters and local officials are hoping to find $1 million to resurface 34 to 35 miles of the trail, McFaul said.