Discussion on a late addition to Tuesday night’s City Council agenda began with an apology. It ended with approval to seek grants for two big road construction projects for Spokane Valley that could begin years sooner than previously anticipated.
The council’s affirmation, however, was not unanimous as one council member did not seem to appreciate the lack of warning.
According to Steve Worley, senior engineer of the city’s capital projects, the state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board issued a call for projects on April 26. While city staffers can generally move forward on grant requests on their own, an application with the mayor’s signature is needed by today (Friday) in order to move forward.
Going forward with the grant application, however, does not commit the city to spending any money – and it won’t assure the state will even write a check for the projects.
“By submitting the application, there’s no guarantee will get funding for either one of them,” Worley said.
City staff identified the Sullivan Road Bridge reconstruction as a top priority and a likely candidate for FMSIB funding. Worley said that, based on an inspection last year, the west side of the bridge is considered “structurally deficient” and should be replaced soon due to the fact that it handles the highest amount of freight traffic of any street in the city.
Another likely candidate for funding, Worley said, is the Barker Road overpass on Trent Avenue that is part of the “Bridging the Valley” project to grade-separate railroad crossings. The overpass, which would be similar to the one at Sullivan Road, has been identified by a subcommittee of the Spokane Regional Traffic Council as a “regionally significant project” and its second-highest priority to get done.
In the case of the Sullivan Bridge, city staff has already submitted a grant application to the Washington State Department of Transportation for a total estimated replacement coat of $19.7 million. Federal bridge grants require a 20-percent local match, and the BMSIB grant would cover the local match, Worley said.
Worley said the cost of the Barker overpass is “enormous” at an estimate of $61 million. That project has a high probability of receiving federal and state assistance because it would allow for safer, easier train traffic through the area. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad would pay 5 percent of the total cost, but Worley thought there would a good chance the FMSIB would take on a portion of the cost.
“FMSIB likes to fund freight projects,” Worley said.
While most of the council was eager to move forward – Council Member Bob McCaslin was absent – Council Member Brenda Grassel was hesitant.
“There’s quite a bit of material here,” she said. “We all just got this just five minutes before the meeting.”
“I know – I’m sorry about that,” Worley said.
Grassel continued, “I don’t want to get us into another situation where we accept a grant, and we’re forced into another street project that we may or may not (want to fund).”
Grassel’s comments appeared to reference the recent flap over the Broadway restriping project that is set to begin soon. The council is planning to discuss a motion to cancel that work, which would take Broadway from four lanes to two with a center turn lane between Pines and Park roads, on June 8.
The council voted 5-1 to submit the projects to FMSIB.