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

Getting There: Altamont Street again open below low railroad bridge

A train crosses over Altamont Street in Spokane on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

It probably goes without saying, but 11 feet, 2 inches is low for a bridge.

But that’s exactly how tall lthe bridge that carries the Union Pacific Railroad line over Altamont Street in east Spokane is – four inches shorter than the notoriously collision-prone Stevens Street viaduct downtown.

It was there when, six minutes after 9 a.m. on Oct. 23, the inevitable happened. A northbound semi-truck collided with the south side of the Altamont bridge. No one was hurt, repairs were made and the tracks were operating again by 10 p.m. Still, additional repairs on the “track structure” were necessary, said Tim McMahan, a spokesman for the rail company.

Nearly a month passed before Altamont reopened below the bridge, on Nov. 21.

Commuters in that part of town surely breathed a sigh of relief, considering that road has been there a century or so. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the city made sure the road connecting the Sprague Union district with Playfair Commerce Park was kept open.

Before then, for decades, the road was the way to Playfair Race Course and its galloping horses.

Established in 1901 on land that previously held the Spokane County Fairgrounds, the race course was bounded on three sides by railroad tracks and only accessible by Altamont.

The modest operation was a gambling diversion for 99 years, and its final race was in December 2000.

In 2004, the city purchased the land and shut the road, readying the area for possibly a new sewage treatment plant. Those plans went nowhere and, in 2009, the local SCAFCO Steel Stud Co. purchased the old raceway’s 48 acres for $2.1 million. A massive industrial park was built on the grounds, and the land was opened up with new ways in, on Haven Street and Ferry Avenue. Altamont remained blocked.

In 2014, in an effort to keep the struggling neighborhood’s connections open, Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder pushed to pave Altamont under the wooden bridge and keep it open as city right-of-way.

Like a seer of doom, Eldon Brown, a city engineer, warned that the clearance could lead to trouble.

“It’s not a standard we’d like to see. The preferred height is 16.5 feet,” Brown said at the time. “Plus, it’s a pretty narrow distance there.”

Despite Brown’s ominous warning, neighborhood advocates wanted the road open.

Jerry Numbers, then-chairman of the East Central Neighborhood Council, said preserving the tunnel and road was vital to connecting the neighborhood to the East Trent business corridor.

“It’s adequate,” Numbers said about the tunnel then. “It’s been adequate for 100 years. It will be adequate for another 100 years.”

Get $5 to park downtown

Through the month of December, the city of Spokane is running a program to encourage motorists to come downtown.

The “Park Your Sleigh for Less” promotion is through the Passport parking smartphone app, and gives parkers $5 every time they load up the Passport wallet with $20. The promotion is unlimited through the end of the year, and parking funds do not expire. That means you can load up your wallet with $20 numerous times, and get the $5 over and over.

It’s pretty straightforward. First, download the Passport parking app on your smartphone. When parking, choose “wallet” as your payment option. Then, load your wallet with $20 and receive an additional $5.

Why, you ask, is the city doing this? It’s that Christmas spirit, not to mention the city will save on processing fees if motorists avoid single credit card transactions every time they park.

SFCC bus stops on the move

Beginning today, Spokane Transit bus stops at Spokane Falls Community College get a new home.

The stops at the intersection of Mitchell Drive and Fort George Wright Drive will be forever closed, and passengers on routes 20 and 33 can board at the new Spokane Falls Station on campus.

According to STA, the new station was built by STA, the Community Colleges of Spokane and the city of Spokane, funded in part through a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

It is not funded by the voter-approved Moving Forward plan, which increased local sales and use taxes by 0.2% to support the Central City Line, extend Saturday hours, replacing aging coaches and increase service to the West Plains and Liberty Lake.