Work is set to begin in the next few months, but several angry citizens aired their displeasure over safety improvements to Broadway Avenue that will see the arterial reduced to three lanes between Pines and Park roads.
It took over an hour Tuesday night for the Spokane Valley City Council to move past the “public comments” portion of its agenda, as several area residents – most going well past the established three-minute-each rule for addressing the governing body – groused over the $933,000 construction project, 80 percent of which will be paid by a state grant.
The council, however, didn’t make any moves that would indicate it plans on changing last year’s 5-2 vote to move the project forward, which received strong criticism from then-Mayor Rich Munson at the time.
Munson, in June 2009, said he hadn’t noticed any significant difference in the reduction of accidents between Sullivan and Pines, which had been changed from four lanes to two with a center turn lane several years earlier. He added that spending nearly $200,000 for restriping was “unnecessary.”
“Spend it on potholes or pavement management,” Munson said.
Munson was joined by Council Member Rose Dempsey in voting no.
Dempsey said recently, however, she has “made her peace” with the changes to Broadway. And when he voted yes last year, Council Member Gary Schimmels said the change was needed for safety reasons.
“You have six schools (between Sullivan and Park roads),” Schimmels said. “Four lanes are dangerous.”
The planned roadwork, which will also add bike lanes and cutouts for wheelchairs to meet American Disability Act requirements, has bedeviled Council Members Brenda Grassel and Bob McCaslin, who have both said they have been quizzed by their constituents on the subject. Those concerns were aired by several who are skeptical about the city’s intentions to “calm” traffic near schools and putting bike lanes between automobiles and sidewalks.
“It’s going by a ‘safety project’ moniker,” Allan Hinkle said. “Bikes and cars don’t mix well. This is a major east-west arterial. The number of lanes needs to be four.”
And another speaker said he believed the restriping was a plot by the former City Council to direct more cars onto Sprague Avenue to strengthen the need for the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan – which also received its share of criticism. The majority of the present council, elected last November under the banner of “Positive Change,” has vowed to rework the plan over the summer.
Two Sprague Avenue-area property owners temporarily halted the Broadway Avenue discussion when they expressed frustration over not being able to expand or open businesses due to restrictive SARP zoning.
When City Attorney Mike Connelly was asked by Grassel why an interim zone change couldn’t be put in place for business owners to move forward with plans that would have been allowed under zoning prior to the adoption of the SARP, he repeated what he had said weeks ago: Nothing can be done that is in conflict with the city’s existing comprehensive plan. Those changes can only be made once a year, and the council is on a schedule to review all the existing zones over the summer.
“Even on an interim basis, you can’t go against the comprehensive plan,” Connelly said.
Finally, the council was cool on the idea of spending $40,000 to $45,000 for broadcasting its meetings over cable television and hosting video on the Web. Currently, the Spokane Valley Business Association is paying $1,300 a month through June to replay meetings on Comcast’s Community Minded TV channel 14 at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays.
“The information we have is that we have declining revenues,” said Council Member Bob McCaslin. “Why are we discussing spending more money?”
Council Member Bill Gothmann responded that Spokane Valley is the largest city that does not pay to broadcast its meetings.
“It’s the cost of doing business,” he said.
The council did agree, however, to discuss the prospect further at a future meeting.