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Gov. Jay Inslee tours University District Gateway Bridge as span reaches final stages of construction

Oct. 23, 2018 Updated Tue., Oct. 23, 2018 at 9:45 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee couldn’t help but draw some architectural comparisons after his stroll to a new vantage point of the Spokane skyline on Tuesday afternoon.

“This arch, is a piece of art, it really is working art,” said Inslee, standing beneath the nearly $12 million University District Gateway Bridge on the eastern edge of downtown.

For the governor, the shape evokes the curvature of the Taj Mahal, and he envisioned the bridge, once opened, becoming a destination piece for Spokane in the vein of Central Park, the Space Needle and the Eiffel Tower. The bridge will link Spokane’s University District educational hub with burgeoning development on East Sprague Avenue.

That opening has already been delayed several weeks, which representatives of the city and Garco Construction said was due not only to a wait for steel but also issues with the bridge’s cables and other scheduling concerns. Kyle Twohig, engineering operations manager for the city of Spokane, would not commit Tuesday to an opening date.

“Soon,” he said. “We just got to get it safe. As soon as it’s safe, we’ll open it up.”

The first shipment of steel for the handrails is scheduled to arrive Friday in Spokane. Workers have enjoyed favorable weather that allowed work to continue Tuesday on the landscaping surrounding the future 120-foot-tall landmark, but colder, wetter conditions are expected later this week.

Local and state lawmakers who joined Inslee on a tour of the construction said they were pleased with what they saw.

“I saw progress,” said state Sen. Andy Billig, whose 3rd Legislative District seatmates Reps. Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby also attended the showcase. “This is the vision coming together of the transportation investment package we passed and the governor signed.”

In 2015, the Washington Legislature approved a $16 billion transportation spending plan that was funded in part by increases in the state’s gas tax. Among the projects that received funding in that package were an additional $879 million to finish the North Spokane Corridor freeway and $8.8 million to mostly cover the costs of the pedestrian and bicycle bridge.

“I’m glad that we passed the biggest infrastructure in the history of the state,” Inslee said. “D.C. can’t build a birdhouse right now, and we’re building bridges, and North/South freeways.”

Inslee, who’s not shied away in recent months from taking shots at the Trump administration, said he wasn’t sure the White House’s trade policies were to blame for the delay in the opening of bridge, which had originally been slated for early October. But he gave his seal of approval to the bridge’s name, which was criticized by some as being too generic for a span that will help define the skyline of Spokane.

“I like it, because I think it’s aspirational, it’s identifiable,” Inslee said. “It really is the skyline. You’re making an iconic landmark part of the Spokane skyline.”

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