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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Getting There: Valley’s wish list coincides with federal infrastructure deal

The railroad crossing at Pines Road photographed on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. Spokane Valley is moving forward with another at-grade intersection improvement project at Pines Road/BNSF railroad tracks. The $29 million proposed project calls for construction of an underpass and a roundabout. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The railroad crossing at Pines Road photographed on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. Spokane Valley is moving forward with another at-grade intersection improvement project at Pines Road/BNSF railroad tracks. The $29 million proposed project calls for construction of an underpass and a roundabout. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Call it coincidental, call it good timing, call it unsurprising: The city of Spokane Valley decided on the top four transportation projects it wants federal funding for on the same day President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats agreed to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure package.

The projects – all big road projects the Valley has been focused on in recent years – weren’t exactly unforeseen.

On Tuesday, the Valley’s elected officials finalized a list of big-ticket projects that require more funding – about $73 million in federal funding.

Topping the list is the Pines Road-BNSF Railway grade separation project, which will replace an at-grade rail crossing on Pines with an underpass at the tracks. The $29 million project still needs $23.9 million in funding.

Currently, cars and trains meet at the same intersection. When trains pass, motorists wait. According to numbers from the Valley, an average of 60 trains and 34,000 vehicles pass the crossing per day. In 2017, the average train delay was four minutes per train, leading to 27,000 hours of delay for motorists over the course of a year.

Installing an underpass below the tracks would let the streams of train and auto traffic flow without impeding one another.

The project will also improve the intersection of two state highways, Pines Road – also known as State Route 27 – and Trent Avenue, or State Route 290, with either a roundabout or an upgraded traffic signal.

Second, the Valley wants $25 million for the $66.5 million Sullivan Road projects between Interstate 90 and Wellesley Avenue, a major arterial road that is expected to see a doubling in traffic once the adjoining Bigelow Gulch Road project is completed in 2022.

Sullivan also links to the Spokane Industrial Park, Central Pre-Mix, Inland Asphalt, Inland Empire Distribution Systems and other industrial and freight businesses.

This project will rebuild the intersection of Sullivan and Marietta Avenue, adding two westbound left turn lanes on Marietta; widen Sullivan from Wellesley to Trent to five lanes; and replace the existing diamond interchange of Sullivan over Trent with either a seven-lane crossing with fully protected, signalized intersections, or keeping the four lanes but adding two roundabouts at the overpass’s two intersections.

Third, the Valley seeks $9 million for the $90 million Barker Road corridor projects, specifically for the road’s reconstruction between Sprague and the interstate.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has said the bridge overpass at Barker and I-90 needs to be replaced by 2030. During rush hour, autos back up on the offramps, stopping the east and west flows of I-90.

Spokane Valley has yet to find a way to pay for the project, which also entails widening Barker to five lanes between Mission Avenue and Appleway Avenue, and improving the intersections of Sprague and Barker, Fourth Avenue and Barker and Eighth Avenue and Barker.

Finally, the Valley wants the feds to pony up $15 million for the $20 million Argonne Road corridor projects.

Argonne is classified as a “T-1 freight route,” which means it carries more than 10 million tons of freight a year. The road carries an average of 35,000 vehicles every day, 15% of which is freight.

The federal request would go toward replacing the southbound Argonne bridge over I-90, which the Valley described as a critical bottleneck for the corridor” that is “deficient and undersized.”

According to the Valley’s plans, the two-lane bridge will be replaced with a three-lane bridge and will save motorists five minutes of travel time from Trent to I-90.

The request would also reconstruct Argonne, replacing “failing asphalt with heavy rutting and consistent potholes” with “reinforced concrete pavement.”

How much the Valley will get is anyone’s guess, but it appears unlikely that it will come from the $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The long-shot handshake agreement was criticized by both the conservative Koch network for spending too much money and not focusing on deregulation, and progressives for not being focused on mitigating transportation’s impact on global climate change.

Spokane Falls Boulevard

to reopen next Monday

After long last, Spokane Falls Boulevard will reopen Monday, May 13 at 10 p.m.

Don’t get too excited. The city says the street’s reopening shouldn’t be considered permanent. It’s only being done while work is being done below Lincoln Street.

The work is part of the $20 million project building a 2.2-million gallon stormwater tank by the downtown library and adjoining public plaza.

Spokane Falls Boulevard is expected to be completely reopened to vehicular traffic this fall.

In the city

The north half of East Sprague Avenue between Scott and Helena is closed for grind and overlay maintenance work. The south half is open for two-way traffic.

Similar maintenance work is hitting commutes on the South Hill. Freya Street between 29th to 37th avenues has been undergoing the work; starting sometime this week, it will be joined by work on 29th from Freya to Havana Street.

Work continues on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, which remains closed from Trent Avenue to Sherman Street as work crews finish the roads intersection with Erie Street.

Crews are also still working on Sunset Boulevard west of town. The road is open to traffic, with one lane either way.

Monroe from Second to Main will be reduced sometime this week, from 7 a.m. Tuesday until 4 p.m. Wednesday, to adjust three manholes in the west lane of Lincoln Street at Sprague, Riverside and Main Avenue. The west lane of Lincoln from Sprague to Main will be closed, as will adjacent parking. The westbound curb lane of Riverside from Post to Monroe Street will be closed, as will its adjacent parking. Sprague traffic won’t be affected.

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