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

Latest Thor-Freya construction brings varying degrees of frustration for nearby businesses

Another year of roadwork brings another set of frustrations for drivers navigating closures – and for businesses nervous that people will steer clear of the area.

The 2024 construction season is underway in Spokane, with the latest stage of work on the Thor-Freya corridor beginning this week, and with it frustrations ranging from maddening to mild for those having to traverse the detours only a couple of years after the area was snarled by construction worsened by chronic delays.

Second Avenue between Thor Street and Freya Street closed Monday as construction crews rebuild the Second Avenue intersections with concrete and move utilities in anticipation of the eventual buildout of the North Spokane Corridor, work that is estimated to take around 10 weeks. The westbound Interstate 90 exit ramp 283B is also closed during that time, shunting drivers to the nearby Broadway, Sprague or Altamont exits.

After underground utility work is done and cement is laid along Second, construction will move a block south to the Third Avenue intersections with Thor and Freya streets. Work there is expected to take less time, but will still stretch into early fall, according to Spokane Public Works Director Marlene Feist.

How much the construction impacts nearby organizations differs significantly depending on the type of business and distance from construction, Feist acknowledged.

“Businesses like a gas station where you stop in and go, that’s probably the biggest impact,” Feist said. “We know the businesses hit hardest are the in-and-out kinds of things, so we ask people to keep using the businesses you always do, because this is when they need your support the most.”

A Mobil gas station wedged between Thor Street and 2nd Avenue, right in the crux of current construction, has had business slow to a trickle, according to employees working Wednesday. For many other businesses nearby, including several located in the Tapio business park wedged between Thor and Freya just north of the construction, nearby road work has been more of a moderate inconvenience.

“It depends on the time of day,” said Amanda Henderson of Communities in Schools of Spokane County, a local nonprofit. “One of my coworkers had to turn and try to go up and detour to Sprague, but the traffic was so crazy that it took her forever… she was still right by our office, and we were supposed to get somewhere.”

So far, the impact on traffic from this year’s construction has been minimal compared to 2022, when asphalt along the major thoroughfares was replaced with concrete between Hartson and Sprague in what was the largest and most complex project of the season, said Angela Miller, vice president of regional and volunteer programs for the Make-A-Wish of Alaska and Washington, which has a local office near the roadwork.

“It’s just kind of a pain to get in and out of the office,” Miller said. “It’s not a huge impact.”

Aaron Mayo, who owns and operates Heritage Films, noted he moved from downtown Spokane into the area just north of current construction around three years ago.

“It was pretty backed up when they first started,” Mayo said. “A lot of backed up traffic with the locals trying to figure out what was going on there, but with the signs they put up redirecting traffic, overall it’s been pretty mild.”

What’s been more frustrating, he added, is that construction has been constant in the corridor since he moved there.

“It seems like we’ve been in a constant construction zone for at least two years,” he said.

There were a number of factors that made it unfeasible to perform this year’s work on the intersections during the 2022 construction season, Feist said. Work two years ago required complicated traffic revisions that would have been exacerbated if the intersections had been included, she said.

Some of the work in the area also involves shifting utilities to make way for the eventual buildout of the North Spokane Corridor, Feist added. In 2022, the city hadn’t yet received the state’s full plans for how that freeway would impact local construction.

“So if we did these intersections two years ago, we probably would be tearing them up again this year anyway,” Feist said.

Work on the Thor-Freya corridor since 2022, including projects expected to be finished this year, cost around $16 million. Of that, around $3.5 million is coming from city coffers, with the rest paid for by the state and federal governments.