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News >  Spokane

With businesses already hurting, city could delay East Sprague construction project

March 31, 2020 Updated Wed., April 1, 2020 at 7:48 a.m.

Sprague Avenue is seen looking west from Grant toward Division on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Spokane, Wash. The city will delay the rebuild of Sprague Avenue between Division and Grant. Due to the interruptions COVID-19 is causing construction, the project would not have been completed this year. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Sprague Avenue is seen looking west from Grant toward Division on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Spokane, Wash. The city will delay the rebuild of Sprague Avenue between Division and Grant. Due to the interruptions COVID-19 is causing construction, the project would not have been completed this year. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Major reconstruction of a section of East Sprague Avenue could be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

City officials are reconsidering how to move forward with the $3.6 million rebuild of East Sprague between Division and Grant streets given the impact the coronavirus has already had on local businesses and the effect strict social distancing measures are having on the construction industry.

The project – the fourth and final part in a series of upgrades to Sprague Avenue in recent years – had been expected to last the entire 2020 construction season. Any delays in the supply chain caused by the coronavirus could make an already tight timeline unmeetable.

When it’s complete, the city will have invested about $17 million in improvements to East Sprague Avenue, which had not received substantial upgrades since 1985. In addition to a reconstruction of the roadway, this year’s phase of the project is slated to include improvements to bicyclist and pedestrian safety, as well as utility upgrades.

But with the construction industry in flux, officials are worried the project could stretch into 2021.

Marlene Feist, a city spokeswoman, said the city began to hear from businesses that the roadwork, combined with navigating the choppy economic waters caused by the coronavirus, “may be too much for them to handle.”

The city’s goal is to “avoid some amplification of the negative impact” that businesses are “already facing,” Feist added.

“In this one case, we’re worried we might be compounding a problem for businesses that have already been impacted,” Feist said.

The city could look for ways it can get a jump on the project this summer without resorting to a full road closure, according to Feist.

In the meantime, the Spokane City Council agreed Monday to delay the awarding of the project to a bidder for at least another two weeks.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order mandating that nonessential businesses close in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. Last week, Inslee clarified that construction is “nonessential,” but he made an exception for construction “to further a public purpose related to a public entity or governmental function or facility.”

The city, making the argument that all of its infrastructure is crucial, believes the governor’s order leaves room for it to carry on with its planned construction season. The Sprague Avenue project is an exception due to its substantial impact on nearby businesses, which have endured years of construction, as well as its scope and complexity.

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