As a famous Ford might say about the closing days of Spokane’s election season, our long municipal nightmare is almost over.
Aside from the record-breaking political spending and seemingly endless back-and-forths about homelessness, there are a whole host of issues that local candidates need to be knowledgeable about, and at the top of that list is transportation.
Over the past few weeks, this column has featured questions and answers with Spokane City Council candidates. This is the final week.
Lori Kinnear is the incumbent for the race to represent south Spokane in District 2. She worked as a legislative assistant to former council members Amber Waldref and Richard Rush before being elected in 2015. Tony Kiepe, a retired health care consultant, unsuccessfully sought appointment to the City Council in 2016 and ran unsuccessfully for a seat in 2017.
How do you commute? How would you like to commute?
Kiepe: I walk down two flights of stairs. My office is in my home.
Kinnear: Currently I drive, walk and bus.
Has the City Council done well in helping plan street work in its six-year and 20-year plans? Would you do anything differently?
Kiepe: I want to see all streets in Spokane paved. We have over 60 miles of gravel roads and it is time to provide infrastructure. I have to ask the current council, why is this not in the plan?
Kinnear: Council has worked with staff to come up with a detailed matrix to prioritize projects. We have modified it somewhat. Going forward, we need to look at additional priorities that may have been overlooked. It is and should be a work in progress as conditions change.
Your district has housing and retail development putting major strains on the region’s roadways, most notably Regal Street and Highway 195. Do you think the city should limit growth? What should the city do to help commuters?
Kiepe: We are not managing our infrastructure and our current growth. We cannot have another 400 homes go up above Eagle Ridge because we don’t have the infrastructure to handle another 800 cars per day on 195. We need the homes but need to find another way to get in and out of Spokane. Two hundred apartments are going across from Target on Regal. How can Regal handle another 200 to 400 cars per day?
Kinnear: A previous council approved development for South Regal. I would not have approved it without requiring the developer to pay additional impact fees. Improving surrounding streets will help ease the congestion, as will the recently expanded transit on that corridor. Highway 195 is a state highway. We need to work with the state to improve or provide additional routes into the city prior to more development happening along that corridor. We also need to direct growth toward our other centers and corridors.
The federal government recently awarded $14.3 million to help rebuild Geiger Boulevard near the Amazon warehouse in the West Plains. Beyond that, the city, the state Department of Transportation and others committed $30.4 million to improving Geiger. Is building a road that will be almost exclusively used by one corporation a fair use of tax dollars?
Kiepe: Yes, we need to plan for long-term growth and more businesses will come to the area. Another 1,000 to 1,500 jobs will put a huge strain on our streets.
Kinnear: Right now it is geared toward one corporation. The West Plains (Public Development Authority) is targeted for more industrial use, and any infrastructure we invest in now will show a return on our investment in the future. Yes, it is a fair use of tax dollars with an eye to the future.
The developer of Kendall Yards, Jim Frank, has plans to build a similar development near 29th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard. The roads are sure to see a lot more traffic. What should the city do to prepare for, or mitigate, congestion on two of the South Hill’s busiest routes?
Kiepe: I’m very happy that the decision was made not to take Crestline through, which would put more traffic in a neighborhood. Jim did a great job in working with the neighbors that live in this neighborhood.
Kinnear: Mr. Frank is a responsible developer who is committed to providing infrastructure for multimodal transportation. This latest project is not the scope of Kendall Yards. By the time the project is completed, the improved transit access that I mentioned earlier will ease congestion, as will improving streets to provide auto users with more choices to move through the neighborhoods.
Your district covers most of downtown, where the traffic situation is a conglomeration of wide one-way streets, surface parking lots and empty sidewalks, not to mention bike lanes, people riding scooters wherever they want, the coming Central City Line and a massive renovation of Riverside Avenue. How would you rate downtown’s traffic situation? Do you support protected bike lanes on Riverside? Should the city revert the one-ways to two-ways?
Kiepe: I believe we need to make our streets safer. Bikers, walkers and cars will be safer with the Riverside protected bike lanes. If bikers feel safer we will see more riding bikes and reducing traffic in Spokane. Our job tis o make sure everyone feels safe. I do not support changing our one-way streets to two-ways. I believe the city spent too much money on developing the Central City Line. It’s hard to comprehend spending over $90 million in taxpayer money. Since we voted and passed it, I support what the citizens want. Why did (the Spokane Transit Authority) go over budget by $20 million? We need to hold the STA board accountable.
Kinnear: Downtown traffic and how it moves need re-evaluation. The Downtown Spokane Partnership and the city are engaged in a downtown plan update. This will inform us how transportation should work for all users downtown. We have too many surface parking lots and not enough parking structures. Those surface parking lots are opportunities to build more housing and structured parking. The (Central City Line) is an opportunity to locate development along that route. Riverside traffic count is low enough to allow for the CCL and protected bike lanes, which I support. Scooter riders need more education as to how to ride safely downtown and perhaps eventually infractions for those who break the rules. One-way streets are not conducive to a vibrant downtown. While we do need convenient and safe ways on and off the freeway, streets should accommodate destination drivers rather than pass-through traffic.
Are you voting in favor of Initiative 976?
Kiepe: Washington is overtaxed but I do not support this bill. If it passes we lose a lot of funding for our streets. Citizens want better streets and should not support this initiative. If we lose the funding our streets will not get better.
Kinnear: No, it would do irreparable harm to our future capital projects and infrastructure maintenance.
In the city
The Altamont Street railroad underpass in east Spokane is closed after being struck by a truck, which caused significant damage. It will remain closed until the Union Pacific Railroad repairs it.
The city will begin grind and overlay maintenance on Market Street between Euclid and Garland avenues this week, and crews will start at the southbound curb lane of Market.
Traffic-calming infrastructure is coming to Wellesley Avenue between Belt and Ash streets, where crews are installing a HAWK pedestrian crossing signal, pedestrian island and wheelchair ramps.
Flaggers will be at the intersection of Shawnee Avenue and Indian Trail Road Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for SEFNCO communications work.
Wellesley and Assembly Street will have flaggers through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Steffens Construction work.
Work continues on the streets surrounding the 2.2 million-gallon sewage and stormwater tank that’s nearly complete by the downtown Spokane Public Library. On Friday, the right lane of Spokane Falls Boulevard between Post and Monroe streets will be closed, as will westbound Main Avenue between Monroe and Lincoln streets.
The southbound lane of Sprague Avenue between Post and Wall streets will be closed through Wednesday for CenturyLink work.
Bacon Concrete work is closing the southbound curb lane of Monroe Street between College and Mallon avenues, and the curb lanes of Monroe between Sharp and Augusta. Work continues through Friday.
Northbound Greene and Market streets will be closed on Nov. 4 between Grace and Cleveland, and flaggers will be in place. The next day, Nov. 5, southbound Greene and Market on the same stretch will be closed.
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