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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Getting There: The season of new pavement is afoot


Road construction season is upon us, and the city of Spokane begins the year of pavement today on Mission Avenue.

Roadwork in March? Yes, roadwork in March, and it starts with a $1.1 million grind and overlay project. Crews will be on Mission between Division and Hamilton Street, closing the two westbound lanes. The remaining, normally eastbound lanes will be converted into one lane of traffic in each direction.

So for those of you who use this fine boulevard for commuting, well, just prepare yourself. And try to use your imagination to look forward to that smooth, smooth, glorious pavement the workers are putting down. Think of it, a new road.

Almost new, anyway. Grind and overlay is not a complete road rebuild, but, as the name suggests, a way to maintain a road and give it new life by grinding off two inches of pavement and then repaving the surface.

“A road can have a multiple decade existence as long as we do this maintenance,” said Marlene Feist, director of strategic development for the public works and utilities department. “If we do that, we could get 50 years out of the roads if we do the maintenance at the right time. We can really extend the life of the streets.”

Grind and overlay is not the least the city can do. That would be chip and crack seal. Chip seal, otherwise known as the bituminous surface treatment, lays down gravel chips on an existing road surface and sprays down liquid asphalt to seal it up. Crack sealing takes even less, but is important for road longevity by painting over and securing the split pavement to stop water from infiltrating the foundation.

Feist said the maintenance work the city does, which includes grind and overlay, chip seal and crack seal, is part and parcel of the city’s strategic plan to keep its roads from resembling those horrid conditions that thrive in Spokane’s reputation of potholes and road ruts.

While the marquee road work projects are big exciting lifts, like the complete renovation of North Monroe and the science experiment with Sharp Avenue’s permeable pavement, the grind and overlay work returns to roads about every 15 years to keep the them as fresh as a baby’s bottom – if that bottom were made of smooth asphalt.

This year, the city is doing grind and overlay work on 13 lane miles of arterial roads, at a cost of about $5 million. An additional 13 lane miles of residential streets are getting the same, for about $4.5 million Then there’s the 2.4 lane miles of Mission at $1.1 million.

Most of this work will be done by the city’s street crews. The Mission project, however, has been contracted out and will be done by Shamrock Paving.

The Mission project is one of five projects being paid for with a $5 million federal grant the city won last August, which allowed the city to add more than 14 miles of roadwork to the 2018 and 2019 schedules. The city will use about $2 million out of the money raised by a 2014 voter-approved streets bond to help finance the work, for a total cost of around $7 million.

Most of that cost goes to the hard part of the street.

“The cost is in the asphalt,” Feist said. “Crack seal is good to do, but it’s really not that expensive.”

So if you’re down about your street getting ground down and overlaid with pavement, and not a complete rebuild, you should rejoice. It’s all part of greater plan.

“One of our strategic plan goals is to have a greater impact on the greater public when it comes to transportation,” Feist said. “We go in with the understanding that maintenance is a good way to keep the good streets and good and make progress .We’re trying to get to those streets that are most important to the community.”

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