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Sunday, December 8, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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North Monroe ‘road diet’ project gets public scrutiny

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 26, 2017

A city plan to remake North Monroe Street with fewer travel lanes drew public opposition at a meeting Thursday.

The $7 million project would reduce a segment of Monroe north of Indiana Avenue from four to two through lanes to the base of the North Hill.

That would allow more space for a wider center turn lane and roomier parking at the curbs.

Opposition has arisen in the business community, which is concerned that the configuration will discourage traffic and that the construction period will drive away customers.

Katy Azar, of Azar’s Restaurant, stood at the door of the meeting Thursday evening handing out fliers explaining the opposition.

The fliers from the North Monroe Business Association warned that “most businesses will close or simply go bankrupt and over 500 jobs may be lost.”

Azar noted that the association is “all for safety.” City planners have said curb extensions at the intersections would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and increase safety in the same section of Monroe where a 5-year-old girl was killed in 2013.

Inside, city and transit staff members explained their latest plan, which includes changes to address neighborhood concerns.

Chief among them was a complaint that buses would stop in the travel lanes to load and unload.

The original plan had four bus stops in the stretch of road affected. The latest plan reduces that to three stops and creates bus pullouts at northbound stops at Montgomery and Dalton avenues. At Montgomery, buses would have a traffic light behind them to create gaps for merging back into traffic. At Dalton, an extra climbing lane up the Monroe hill would allow buses to re-enter traffic.

City officials have said that the project seeks to improve the pedestrian experience and the neighborhood feel of the district, which in other locations has proven to be a benefit to the business climate.

Construction would start in 2018. City officials are committing to getting the job done in one construction season, said Marlene Feist, of public works and utilities.

Not all businesses are opposed. Megan Kennedy, of Rogue Heart Media, 2916 N. Monroe, said the city is showing a willingness to work with the neighborhood.

“I think the benefits far outweigh the tradeoffs,” she said.

A sequence of photos taken by the city at rush hour over a three-minute period showed clusters of cars moving along the corridor with large open gaps in between.

Resident Mike Bowcutt, who ran a business along North Monroe, said he has complained about the dangers to pedestrians along that section of Monroe for years.

“I think they’ve got some pretty neat ideas,” he said.

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