The Don Kardong Bridge could soon be in tiptop shape like the thousands of walkers, runners and cyclists who cross it every year.
The Spokane City Council unanimously approved the use of $1.45 million in American Rescue Plan funds to repair and upgrade the Centennial Trail’s Don Kardong Bridge on Monday.
The bridge, which spans the Spokane River near Gonzaga University, has long been eyed for repairs and was initially slated to be redone in 2020. Like so many other plans, repairs were thrown off by the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s crossed by about 160,000 people every year but hasn’t been substantially improved since the 1990s, according to city officials.
The project calls for the bridge to receive new railings, enhanced lighting and entirely new decking of precast concrete, replacing the current decking that includes quickly rotting wood planks.
The aqua-green trusses that define the bridge’s current aesthetic would be removed.
The upgrades are more than cosmetic. Several of the bridge’s outlook areas are already closed because they have been deemed structurally unsound.
The project already has been designed and is “shovel-ready,” according to parks officials.
The bridge project will be funded with $800,000 in state and local grants and $1.45 million from the city’s $81 million cut of the federal American Rescue Plan.
City officials pitched the bridge repair as a suitable use for American Rescue Plan funds because Parks and Recreation saw substantial losses in revenue during the pandemic, which limited the ability to hold programs like recreational sports leagues and forced Parks to delay capital projects.
Time is of the essence, as the city loses access to the state grant if it does not complete construction by spring of 2023.
Councilman Michael Cathcart pushed unsuccessfully for the vote to be delayed for one week while the city requests additional funding from Gonzaga University. Gonzaga has committed $35,000 to the project, while the University District has pledged $70,000, Parks and Recreation Director Garrett Jones told the City Council.
Cathcart argued the “community that (the bridge) serves specifically should have a little bit more skin in the game.” He also raised concerns the city’s pool of American Rescue Plan funds is limited, and “I’m slowly seeing this money getting allocated away.”
Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, however, warned that “if we don’t fix (the bridge) it will be closed.”
Several council members agreed that Monday’s vote would not preclude Gonzaga from committing additional money to the project, and that any unspent funds could be returned to the city’s tranche of American Rescue Plan funds.
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