Getting There: Section of Ash Street to become two-way using property taxes spurred by development
Mon., Feb. 20, 2023
A small section of one-way roadway in Spokane is about to become two-way. Again.
Two blocks of Ash Street between Broadway and Dean avenues will be converted from a southbound one-way to a two-way street after a unanimous vote by the Spokane City Council on Feb. 13.
That stretch of street is the western border of The Enrichment Cooperative at Bryant, an alternative, public K-12 school. The intersection of Ash and Maple streets to the north of the school will also be reconfigured to improve pedestrian crossing.
The changes were primarily spurred by pedestrian safety concerns in the area, said Councilwoman Karen Stratton.
“This will slow traffic down, and it will create a safer space for kids and families to walk across the street,” she said.
Like most city streets, the entirety of Ash Street was originally a two-way road, though it’s unclear when or why it was changed to a one-way, wrote Inga Note, Spokane senior traffic planning engineer, in an email.
The project was first proposed by the West Central Neighborhood Council in 2017, but had not been particularly high on the list of priorities among the significant backlog of traffic-calming projects, said outgoing Neighborhood Council Chair Elizabeth Marlin. However, the size of the project was small enough that it could be squeezed into this year’s budget, she added, and the change is still desired.
The Ash Street two-way conversion and intersection modifications had been on the list of projects eligible for traffic impact fees, fees paid to mitigate the impact of new developments on local roads and other transportation infrastructure, Note said. The project was added to the list because it would make it easier for drivers to access the Maple Street Bridge, she added.
However, impact fees could not cover the entire project.
The Spokane City Council voted unanimously to approve the use of $180,000 of tax increment finance funds from the West Quadrant Tax Increment Finance District, supplementing $150,000 from traffic impact fees.
Tax-increment financing allow the city to capture some of the increases in property tax revenues in an area and use those funds on local public improvements. The West Quadrant TIF District, which includes parts of the West Central, Emerson-Garfield and Riverside neighborhoods, was created in 2007 to capture some of the increases in property taxes anticipated with the building of Kendall Yards.
However, until recent years, there wasn’t much to capture, Marlin added.
Shortly after the district’s creation, the bottom fell out of property values during the Great Recession, Marlin said, who referred to the next 10 years of growth as “the lost decade.” Because property values had dropped, the district captured nothing until values returned to pre-recession levels and then increased from there, she added.
Modifications to Ash Street and the intersection with Maple Street will take place sometime during the 2023 construction season, though likely not before late summer, Inga wrote in an email.
Work to watch for
City crews will begin working Wednesday at Dalton Avenue and Perry Street near Gonzaga Prep on crosswalk and sidewalk improvements. Single-lane closures will be in place.
The eastbound curb lane of Hartson Avenue between Julia and Florida streets will be closed beginning Monday for Avista work. There will also be lane closures and flaggers on 37th Avenue between Crestline and Mt. Vernon Street. The work will last through March 3.
Shifting lane closures will be in place on West Thorpe Road near Spokane International Airport between Grove and Carnation roads beginning Wednesday through March 4.
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