If you’re looking to linger above the Spokane River, watching spectacular and imposing waterfalls crash up- and downstream of you in the middle of downtown, without a single car buzzing by, you might want to hurry down to the Post Street Bridge now before it’s too late.
A year after the city closed the span to all motor vehicles due to concerns about whether it could safely hold their weight, the city is on the brink of temporarily shutting off access to pedestrians and bicyclists, too.
Once closed, likely next month, the bridge will be demolished down to its arches and rebuilt, according to Marlene Feist, the public works department’s director of strategic development.
While the $18.5 million construction contract hasn’t officially been awarded, Feist said doing so is a formality and that crews are expected to begin the two-year job sometime next month.
Plans to do something about the Post Street Bridge have been in the works for years.
When the city launched a $385,000 study of its options in 2015, some planners were kicking around the idea of removing it completely and replacing it with a pedestrian-only span. Later, the plan was to replace the 333-foot concrete bridge with a brand-new, all-steel frame.
Ultimately, though, officials decided to preserve the bridge’s arches, in large part to save money.
But constructing a span from scratch at the site of the Post Street Bridge is daunting for other reasons, too.
When crews put in the first two of those arches in 1917, a couple of them paid with their lives when the temporary framework collapsed into the river, sending some 30 workers into the water and killing two.
This time around, the job should be far simpler, though it won’t be without its complications.
After demolishing the existing deck, the contractor will be tasked with cleaning, sealing and reinforcing the bridge’s three arches.
They will also have to deal with a 54-inch sewer main that’s currently hanging off the side of the structure.
“We’re going to tuck that sewer pipe between the arches so it’s less visible,” Feist said.
When complete, likely in early 2022, the bridge will be strong enough to carry cars again. It will also continue to serve as an important river crossing for the Centennial Trail.
Feist said the city intends to restore one-way northbound traffic in the center of the span and add spaces for the Centennial Trail on either side.
In the meantime, though, trail users will have to find another way to cross the river.
While that will mean a detour that sends people across the Howard Street bridges, around the Flour Mill and down several city streets, Loreen McFaul, executive director of Friends of the Centennial Trail, says she can see benefits in the disruption.
“The detour will head folks north, and I think it may introduce them to the north bank Riverfront Park construction and all of the exciting changes going on on the north side of the river,” McFaul said.
Among those “exciting changes,” she said, are a new Ice Age-flood-themed playground being built between Howard and Washington streets, the Sportsplex site where work is underway, and private developments like the Wonder Building.
McFaul also credits the city with doing a “great job lining things up” so that the bridge’s closure coincides with the work happening elsewhere in Riverfront Park, such as construction of a new all-inclusive playground just south of the bridge.
Once all the work is done, McFaul looks forward to a revitalized bridge that will not only move users across the river in the heart of the Centennial Trail but also offer them “such a tremendous, tremendous view” while doing so.
Traffic increases despite Gov. Inslee’s stay-home order
It’s not your imagination: More and more people are out and about here, despite no change in Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
The proof can be found in the detailed Spokane-area traffic data Becky Spangle has been sending to Inslee’s office every weekday since March 13, the day he announced he was shutting down schools and universities and all gatherings of more than 250 people in the state.
The data Spangle, manager of the Spokane Regional Traffic Management Center, collects and shares shows weekday traffic in Spokane reached a low point on March 31, when it was down an average of 42%.
Since that time, though, weekday traffic has been climbing. As of Friday, Spangle said by email, “We are now at 22% reduction as compared to the February baseline.”
Spangle also noted that there have been “some subtle changes in traffic patterns.”
Instead of the usual morning and evening peaks, traffic is more evenly spread over the course of the day.
And there’s some evidence people are also changing where they drive, tending to stick to Interstate 90 instead of getting off at area exits, and favoring less-congested city arterials instead of hopping on the North Spokane Corridor to get around Spokane.
There are also indications in the data that “increasing volumes are just starting to show some congestion again,” Spangle said.
That may be a sign we’re heading back in the direction of normal, not only for the better but also for the worse.
Work to watch for
Spokane County is ramping up construction activity with a number of projects:
Work on the Bigelow Gulch Urban Connector Project is underway, meaning Progress Road is closed from East Forker Road to North Forker Road through Aug. 31.
Work on Geiger Boulevard means the road is closed east of the Amazon fulfillment center. Thomas Mallen Road is also closed. A detour uses Hayford Road, 53rd Avenue and Electric Street.
Reconstruction of Mill Road means it will be closed from Hastings Road to Dartford Drive beginning Thursday through Oct. 31. A detour uses Hastings, U.S. -395, Wandermere and Dartford.
Crews will be improving sidewalks and curb ramps on West Terrace Drive from Melville Road to Champion Lane and from Masters Lane to Kite Drive; on Aero Road from Dour Street to Fruitvale Road; and on Hayford Road at Richland Road. Watch for lane restrictions, flaggers and possible delays through May 22.
Work that may disrupt traffic in the city of Spokane:
Division Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction at the Wellesley Avenue intersection. Detours will be in place for both eastbound and westbound Wellesley traffic. This work will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through May 8 for Avista work.
Fifth Avenue between Haven and Fiske streets will be flagged in both directions until Tuesday for Quanta work.
In Liberty Lake, replacement of a water line means Neyland Road will be closed from Lakeside Road to Gage Street until Sept. 30.