Construction on the Hatch Road Bridge began in the first week of April, blocking the primary link between the South Hill and U.S. Highway 195.
Before construction started, over 8,000 vehicles per day used Hatch Road, which joins Highway 195 to 57th Avenue. Significant portions drove the road during peak commute hours. Now, those drivers have to take detours while the bridge gets crucial repairs.
The $1.9 million Hatch Road Bridge Deck Replacement project is expected to keep the bridge closed through July.
“As part of our regular bridge inspections, it was discovered that the current Hatch Road Bridge is subject to shifting when heavy vehicles cross, leading to frequent short-term closures for repairs,” said Spokane Public Works spokesperson Kirstin Davis. “A new bridge deck will allow firetrucks and local freight traffic to use the bridge and reduce the need for future maintenance.”
Though the four-month closure might be a headache now, the project carries the promise of minimal future maintenance and better access for emergency vehicles.
Nonetheless, it has put a strain on some area residents.
Maureen Herr, a resident of Highland Park of almost eight years, said that “about 90% of where I drive to” is affected.
“I would almost always go down Hatch and get on 195, because my kids go to school up north,” she said.
For others, the construction has been a blessing.
Evelyn Martinez said the work “hasn’t really affected me at all.” Even though Martinez would normally use U.S. 195, the detour hasn’t added any real time to her travels.
She acknowledged that for some of her neighbors, who might have schools on the other side of U.S. 195, the detour has turned their 10-minute drives into journeys.
Her husband, Juan Martinez, agreed.
“I like it,” he said. “We don’t have the traffic, all the people coming down from Eagle Ridge to shop.”
Eagle Ridge is a development on the west side of U.S. 195.
In addition to the deck replacement, the city is using the project to expand the U.S. 195 intersection, which has been a frequent cause of immense backups over the years.
According to area residents, traffic jams at the intersection have been known to significantly back up traffic.
“Anything that allows the traffic flow to improve is a good thing,” Herr said.
There was widespread approval among Hatch Road residents upon hearing about the right-turn lane, which Wyatt Newhouse – project engineer at Halme Construction, the contractor in charge of the Hatch Road work – confirmed will be 60 feet long.
There is some skepticism, however, as to whether this lane will be sufficient to instigate real change on the Hatch Road corridor.
“It could either have traffic calming or some sort of sidewalk,” Brian Trimble said. “It would be an awesome opportunity to continue that narrative of trying to make (the area) more accessible for pedestrians and vehicles.”
Brian Trimble’s wife, Nicki Trimble, said she has been able to bike on Hatch Road since the construction started – something that felt unsafe during peak traffic.
Newhouse said Halme’s contract is up Aug. 5. The city expects the bridge to reopen by July 31.
“Everything’s proceeding smoothly, we haven’t run into any major issues that we haven’t been able to tackle, and progress is moving ahead,” Newhouse said.