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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Getting There: Maze of North Side street closures eases a bit

Here’s a puzzle: What’s the best way to get off Five Mile Prairie? Another one: How can a motorist get downtown from anywhere on the far north side of the city?

Anyone?

Commuters in north Spokane have seen some major roadways choked by work this summer. From A Street to Strong Road, the patchwork of pavement-mending has a made a maze for motorists.

Work on Wellesley between Driscoll Boulevard and Milton Street has closed the arterial street for more than a month just west of the Shadle Center. The work is part of a $2.4 million project to rehabilitate a number of streets across the city including East Sprague Avenue from Scott to Helena, and the Maple-Ash corridor between Rowan and Country Homes Boulevard. The grind-and-overlay preservation work brings new asphalt to the streets, and update some pedestrian upgrades.

This stretch of Wellesley is scheduled to open Monday , so enjoy that new road. But before you get too gas happy, know that crews will be on Wellesley around the Shadle Public Library for a traffic-calming project. The installation of what’s called a HAWK light – which pedestrians can activate to help them more safely cross the road – won’t close Wellesley, but some lanes between Belt and Ash streets will be shut to traffic. Expect some delays.

Another project nearing completion is the $2.7 million project to completely rebuild Five Mile Road from Lincoln Road to Strong, where a roundabout has been built. The work is delivering better pedestrian lighting, crosswalks at every intersection, trees and the replacement of an 18-inch steel water main below the road. Strong reopens Monday, allowing east-west passage of the neighborhood on a plateau. Five Mile Road will remain closed until early October.

Motorists have had two options to get off the prairie – Strong, which turns into Barnes Road and intersects with Indian Trail, and Cedar Road, which connects to Country Homes. Thing is, both Indian Trail and Country Homes have seen work as well.

Spokane County is performing basic maintenance on Country Homes, consisting of grinding down the pavement, repairing some native material below the road surface and rebuilding the road with hot-mixed asphalt pavement. The smooth new pavement is down on the northbound lane, but work continues. On-street parking will be limited during construction on both sides of the road.

Excelsior Youth Center is building an integrated health care facility in the Indian Trail neighborhood, and the work has shifted lanes on Indian Trail Road between Weile and Excell avenues. The work created backups, most noticeably – and road-ragedly – during rush hour. Good news: The work ended Friday.

So, unlike most people who long to draw these leisurely summer days out just a bit more, North Side commuters can be forgiven for hoping for the end of the season.

In the county

Work on the Aero-Westbow roundabout continues, but is nearing completion. Flaggers are out, but work is expected to be done on Saturday.

The areas around Bigelow Gulch are getting cleared and grubbed, and culverts, guardrails and pavement are being added. The road is open on the south alignment, but traffic will soon switch to the north alignment. Current work is expected to wrap up at the end of September.

The Elk Chattaroy Bridge reopens Monday, but work will continue through October. The bridge’s concrete deck is being rehabilitated by hydro-demolition of the entire existing slab. The reinforcing rebar steel will be replaced.

Work related to the coming Amazon fulfillment center warehouse is ongoing, on Geiger Boulevard from Hayford to Soda roads. Work is expected to wrap up at the end of October. Hayford from 53rd Avenue to Geiger is closed. Geiger from Thomas Mallen Road to Soda may have flaggers, and closures of the road are expected in September.

The Mead-Mount Spokane sewer project will close Market Street at State Route 206, otherwise known as Mount Spokane Park Drive. The road is expected to reopen Sept. 19. Detours will be in place. The project closed multiple roads in June, including Freya Street from Moody Road to Day-Mt. Spokane Road; Ferrall Sreet from Moody to Lane Park Road; and Moody from Freya to U.S. Highway 2.

The Palouse Highway between Freya and 55th Avenue is closed to traffic while crews install a sewer main. The work will be done Friday.

Eisenhower’s road trip

This week marks 100 years since the U.S. Army’s Motor Transport Corps convoy finished its transcontinental road trip from the nation’s capital to San Francisco.

The 3,251-mile trip took 62 days, and the convoy averaged 5 mph.

It was early days for the Army’s motorized vehicles, and the trip was ostensibly made to test military mobility for wartime conditions. In that respect, it showed how bad the nation’s roads were then – proving the point of the American Good Roads Association, which convinced the Army to do the road trip in the first place to help drum up support to pave the nation.

A young lieutenant colonel named Dwight Eisenhower was part of the convoy, and he got the message. As he watched the convoy’s 81 vehicles and 300 men crawl across America on the Lincoln Highway, he realized the nation’s roads weren’t up to snuff. Decades later, he toured the Autobahn of the defeated Nazis as supreme allied commander of Europe during World War II.

The two experiences convinced Eisenhower as president that the U.S. needed its own national system of highways, and he won passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act.

Nowadays, we take the 47,000-mile long network of interstates for granted. But about 100 years ago, as soldiers pushed their trucks over the salty mush of Utah, such a sentiment surely would have made them scoff.

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