Upriver Drive was permanently closed on Monday from Mission Avenue to North Center Street as Avista Corp. began work to replace the road with a new park between its headquarters and the Spokane River.
Meghan Lunney, Avista’s Spokane River license manager, said the new 3-acre Upriver Park will open in at unknown time in the late fall.
When it does, it will add river access for nonmotorized boaters as well as benches, signage, picnic tables, bike racks, kayak stands and amphitheater-style seating at the north entry to the park.
In addition, the Centennial Trail, which previously ran alongside Upriver Drive without a buffer, will be realigned and expanded to 12 feet as it runs through the park.
An existing rock wall will be opened to allow for pedestrian access from the Centennial Trail to the Shoreline Trail, which is a dirt path through the riverbank area along the Spokane River.
Jersey barriers along Upriver Drive as well as some plants along the riverbank also will be removed to open up views of the river.
As a requirement of the street vacation, Avista will modify the intersection of Upriver Drive and North Center Road to allow for improved traffic flow in the area.
Those modifications will include removal of the existing stop sign where Center Road meets Upriver Driver as well as the addition of a rapid-flashing beacon for pedestrians, Lunney said.
Both the north and south ends of Upriver Park will also include small parking and turn-around areas for vehicles. Lunney said those spaces have been designed to allow people with kayaks and other non-motorized boats to unload, even if they have to park further away.
The project is slated to cost $2 million, and Lunney said it will serve as a model for similar projects.
“The whole goal was to provide an example of how we could improve access along the Centennial Trail so people could repeat the design,” Lunney said.
She said Avista is currently working on one such project near the Post Falls Dam.
Avista first proposed the Upriver park and road closure in 2019. Despite opposition from some neighbors who expressed concerns about the effect on the local road network, the Spokane City Council unanimously approved the plan to replace the nearly half-mile stretch of street with a park later the same year.
An Avista traffic analysis submitted to the city in 2019 concluded that vacating the street “will not unacceptably impact traffic conditions” and “no improvements are required or recommended,” according to a previous Spokesman-Review story.
Upriver Drive saw about 4,500 vehicles a day on average in 2018, according to city data.
That traffic will now be rerouted around Avista’s main campus via Perry Street, Indiana Avenue, North Crescent Avenue and North Center Street, which meets Upriver a half-mile north of Mission.
Work was initially planned to begin in May 2020, but those plans were pushed back because of delays in the permitting process and the uncertainties brought to the construction industry by the coronavirus.
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