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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Getting There: We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it – unless it’s closed

With the barrage of bridges offering pedestrians connection through downtown Spokane, you’d think crossing the river would be easy. But the task is becoming ever more complicated as the city works to improve its bridges, trails and roads before the anniversary of Expo ’74 in May.

Spokane resident Edward Malloy said he typically would cross the Post Street Bridge about two times a week during the winter to reach Riverfront Park’s ice ribbon. He’s been rerouting his commutes to the Monroe Street Bridge in the three-plus years Post has been closed.

“It’s a little bit more out of the way,” he said. “There’s a lot of graffiti, and it’s kind of dirty sometimes.”

Now, Malloy’s options are even more limited.

Earlier this month, the pedestrian walkway on the west side of Monroe closed, pushing foot traffic to the east side of the bridge. The two pedestrian suspension bridges in Riverfront Park also remain closed.

The closure on Monroe marks the start of the city’s South Gorge Trail Connection project. It’s the final step in completing the Great Gorge Loop Trail, a path city officials have been working to complete since 2013.

Once complete, the trail will run along both sides of the Spokane River from the Post Street Bridge to the Sandifur Bridge. Construction crews under the Monroe Street Bridge on the south bank are creating a path that snakes under the arched bridge.

“This is kind of that final section that will create a full loop,” said Kirstin Davis, spokeswoman for the city’s public works department.

Crews will work under the Monroe Street Bridge, prepping the area for further construction this spring, for as long as they can until the weather turns cold. The city hopes to complete the trail in time for the anniversary of Expo ’74 in May.

“It is likely that the walkway will be reopening during the winter when there isn’t work being done,” Davis said.

Additionally, commuters can expect intermittent lane closures at some points during construction.

“There’s probably going to be construction equipment that can only access that area from the bridge,” Davis explained.

But even once the south gorge path under Monroe is completed, the Post Street Bridge needs to also be open before pedestrians can walk the full loop.

The timeline for that project is similar, Davis said.

“While we were hopeful the bridge could open by the end of 2023, it is looking more like it won’t be ready for use until 2024,” she said in an email. “This Post St. Bridge project has taken longer than we had planned.”

The Post Street Bridge closed in June 2020. Construction was planned to span two years.

Davis listed a number of factors contributing to the bridge’s extended closure, including worker restrictions, supply chain issues, construction labor shortages and more work needed than expected in preserving Post’s historic arches.

“Let’s not forget that the bridge is more than 100 years old,” she wrote. “Any time you work on a 100-year-old structure, you will encounter things that are different than you expect or plan for.”

The bridge has also cost more than expected – Davis said the current construction cost is up from the $18.5 million initially estimated to $23.5 million.

When complete, the bridge will have some aesthetic changes. The sewer line, which previously hung along the outside of the bridge’s east side, is now hidden underneath the structure. Plant infrastructure will divide the bridge into one northbound traffic lane and the Centennial Trail, which will run on both sides of the bridge.

“Once the bridge and the South Gorge Trail connection under the south side of Monroe Street Bridge is completed, we will have achieved the vision of completing the Great Gorge Loop Trail,” Davis said. “People will be able to enjoy an approximately four-mile loop, crossing the Spokane River twice.”

In the meantime, pedestrians looking for access to both sides of the river can use the east side of the Monroe Street Bridge, the Howard pedestrian bridge and the various bridges west of Howard.

Work to watch for

On the Maple Street Bridge, one lane in each direction will be open all week.

Water pipeline work this week will continue to close Westbow Road, from Spotted Road to Cheatham Road.

The eastbound lane of Hawthorne Road, between Newport Highway and Perry Street, will be closed through Oct. 31 for work by Sefnco Construction.

Ruby Street’s east lane will be closed between Jackson and Cleveland avenues through Nov. 3 for work by North Sky Communications.

Madison Avenue from First to Sprague avenues will be closed Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for Symphony Day.

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.