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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘It looks really nice’: North suspension bridge at Riverfront Park reopens after repairs

UPDATED: Thu., March 31, 2022

Some just lucked into it. Others, like Tyler Morris, heard about it on the news.

Whatever the reason, several visitors to Riverfront Park on Wednesday got a familiar view of the Spokane River a few years in the making with the reopening of the north and south suspension pedestrian bridges.

The north bridge had been closed since April 2019 for maintenance. Reconstruction, which began last May, included building a new bridge deck, safety upgrades to railings and repairing or replacing corroded steel floor beams, lighting and other electrical components, according to Spokane Parks and Recreation.

As a result, the south bridge and snxw meneʔ (formerly known as Canada Island) were also closed last year to accommodate construction. Planning is underway for similar repairs to the south bridge.

Riverfront Park was one of the first places Morris and his daughter checked out after moving to Spokane from out of state around eight years ago, he said.

Speaking over the roar of the Spokane River at the north bridge, Morris said the walkway appeared largely similar to how it looked when he last saw it.

“As long as they’re keeping up with it and it’s not going to collapse on us while we’re walking across, I think people are going to be happy with it,” he said. “The bridge isn’t what we come here for. It’s to come to watch the water.”

Both bridges were built for Expo ’74. The north bridge was closed three years ago just as the north-south Howard Street promenade opened.

Though damage from the 2019 winter season sped up the timeline for necessary repairs, initial construction bids received the following fall came in over budget. Then, financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic put the work on hold, according to the parks department.

“The original bridge deck, built for Expo ’74 was constructed with a 30 year design life span,” parks department spokesperson Fianna Dickson said in a statement, “and the deterioration to the bridge deck components was commensurate with typical wear and tear during the nearly 50-year-old age of the bridge.”

Repairs cost $2.9 million, with part of that covered by $505,000 from the Riverfront Park Redevelopment bond, a $64 million dollar bond approved by voters in 2014 for park improvements.

The remainder was covered through $1 million from the city’s general fund, $495,000 from the Park Fund and $1 million through grants from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation office and the West Quadrant Tax Increment Finance District, according to the parks department.

Dickson said any unused funds will go toward the planned $2.3 million renovation of the Don Kardong bridge. That’s only unreserved park capital funds; Dickson said any grant funds and City Council appropriations specific to the bridge repairs were used as such.

Temporary overhead Avista power lines installed during construction will remain in place until repairs to the south bridge are complete. The power lines will then be returned beneath the bridge, according to the parks department.

Parks officials said the south bridge is expected to remain open for the time being as the department develops the design and funding package to cover the $2.2 million estimated cost for the repairs. The department has applied for partial funding through state and federal grant programs.

“For the bulk of the south bridge repairs, the north bridge will remain open, but will dead-end at the snxw meneʔ bridge,” Dickson said. “The Island will be closed to be used as staging area for the south suspension bridge.”

With the completion of the north bridge repairs, the redevelopment of Riverfront Park is “substantially complete,” Dickson said.

One significant project still on the docket is the development of a new dog park at the park’s Forestry Shelter, an ongoing effort through the Spokane Parks Foundation’s Campaign for Riverfront Spokane.

Meanwhile, the “Stepwell” interactive art project and “The Seeking Place” aluminum art piece are slated for completion this fall, Dickson said.

Jay Sciuchetti, who was out for a stroll over the river Wednesday, said the suspension bridges give a good view of the development in and around the park area.

“They were starting to show their age somewhat. Still functional for sure,” Sciuchetti said of the bridges. “Yeah, really excited. It looks really nice.”

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