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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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City limits proposed 98-home Eagle Ridge-area development until Highway 195 is improved

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 7, 2020

New homes are shown popping up in the Eagle Ridge area in this April 23, 2018 photo. The city of Spokane placed limits this week on the size of a new nearby development, The Summit, due to concerns about traffic in the area. (Liz Kishimoto / The Spokesman-Review)
New homes are shown popping up in the Eagle Ridge area in this April 23, 2018 photo. The city of Spokane placed limits this week on the size of a new nearby development, The Summit, due to concerns about traffic in the area. (Liz Kishimoto / The Spokesman-Review)

On Dec. 13, Mark Ford sent an email to Ali Brast, assistant city planner for the city of Spokane, about The Summit, a proposed development near Eagle Ridge that would put down 98 single-family homes. His concern was that added traffic would make U.S. Highway 195 unsafe, particularly the Highway 195/Interstate 90 interchange. Three family members, he wrote, had been in “vehicle totaling collisions at intersections along this corridor.”

A little over a year earlier, Ford voiced similar grievances at a community meeting at St. John’s Lutheran Church over a 240-home development in the forested land surrounding Spokane Memorial Gardens. At that meeting, citizens brought a karaoke machine so their comments could be heard – and they were. Eagle Ridge by Newland Communities dropped the plan.

In the case of The Summit, formerly known as Eagle Ridge West, the city’s hearing examiner approved the development on Friday, with a condition: Until the Washington Department of Transportation makes improvements to U.S. 195, Whipple Consulting Engineers can only build 20 homes.

Whipple Consulting Engineers could not be reached by press time for comment. But City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said this seemed like a good compromise, as she shares residents’ concerns about Highway 195’s safety.

“That corridor has been a problem for a number of years,” Kinnear said. “And it’s not just the city’s development, but it’s also development further south that’s impacting the corridor. It’s not a high priority for WSDOT, except that it has a high number of accidents. They are concerned with that, as they should be.”

After voters in November approved Initiative 976 – the measure that limited car tags to $30 but, in turn, would cut transportation budgets statewide – the prospect of funding for improvements on 195 is even more remote, Kinnear said.

Kinnear said the city has a decision to make about how to handle the housing shortage, but she doesn’t think developing The Summit is the answer.

“(It) is not served by transit, so their only option is to get in the car, anywhere they want to go,” Kinnear said.

Planners from the city of Spokane, Spokane County, the Spokane Transit Authority, WSDOT and the Spokane Regional Transportation Council are embarking on a study of how to relieve congestion and improve safety of the Highway 195 corridor. While planners agree that improving the I-90/195 interchange is an important long-term fix, the money for that costly project doesn’t yet exist. Instead, they hope to pursue more attainable solutions.

WSDOT recently constructed a J-turn (otherwise known as a “Michigan left”) at the Highway 195/Thorpe Road intersection. City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said J-turns can be an effective, low-cost safety measure, as was the case with the $1.46 million Thorpe project.

Whipple posed the possibility of a half J-turn at Meadow Lane Road, estimated at $495,000. This version would have one right-turn island, two acceleration lanes, a deceleration lane and one median crossover.

Whipple did not analyze the I-90/195 interchange.

Greg Figg, WSDOT development services manager, made clear to Brast in a letter that WSDOT did not have funding for another J-turn project that would be necessary to improve the 195/Meadow Lane Road intersection.

“Without the concurrent mitigation of the trips added by the development at this intersection, WSDOT is concerned the resulting level of service will have adverse safety effects,” Figg wrote.

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