Like many of his fellow cyclists, Marc Mims initially voiced his support for the Broadway Safety Project based on the proposed addition of bike lanes.
At Tuesday night’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting, Mims pedaled off in a different direction.
“I first advocated for this project as a cyclist and that was a mistake,” he said.
Mims went on to explain to council that the reduction of vehicle collisions on the east/west thoroughfare as well as adherence to standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act warranted the changes that have been proposed on Broadway, including the adjustment of lanes from four to two with a center turn lane between Pines and Park roads.
The current configuration, Mims said, “is too narrow to safely accommodate four lanes of rapidly moving traffic.”
Many citizens agreed and told council so in an extended series of public comments that preceded the final vote on suspending the project until further data could be gathered. By the time the city’s governing board cast its vote, the proposal to halt the upgrade had failed 4-2 with Mayor Tom Towey and Council Members Bill Gothmann, Rose Dempsey and Gary Schimmels voting to move forward with Council Members Dean Grafos and Brenda Grassel in the minority.
Prior to the vote, Mayor Tom Towey expressed his support for navigating ahead.
“I think this issue has been discussed more by this council and the previous council than any other issue,” Towey said. “I would encourage council to vote no on the suspension.”
Gothmann, who recited a list of similar projects throughout the country that have experienced a significant decrease in collisions after the changes were made, said any further delay would be a mistake.
“This is a project that entails both health and safety,” he said. “The cost of gathering more data could mean broken limbs, wrecked cars and lives that are affected.”
Spokane Valley has grant funding in the amount of $933,000 available for the work which would include the installation of bike lanes and sidewalk cutouts to meet ADA requirements. Grant money would cover 80 percent of the overall cost with the city picking up the remaining 20 percent. The funds could be forfeited if the project is not completed by the end of 2011.
“We’ve had enough years to look at this street and correct this problem,” said Schimmels.
While Grafos backed the ADA upgrades, he expressed concern with what he called “incomplete data” including a discrepancy as to how many cars travel Broadway each day. He supported the idea of leaving the four lanes in place until next spring after seeing “what kind of winter we have.”
Grassel said she saw“pros and cons to both configurations” and said she has received e-mails speculating on the potential traffic congestion caused by the realignment. Resident Rick Dawson, the only citizen to rally for suspension of the project, said he worried about vehicles lining up on Broadway to Pines during busy times of the day.
Still, locals like Christopher Pierce said the four-lane format continues to contribute to unsafe conditions for pedestrians.
“You can’t predict when traffic is going to speed up or slow down,” he said.
Resident Cathy Harris reiterated that the improvements to the street had “been misrepresented as a special project for cyclists.” Harris referred to a study that indicated the addition of a center turn lane and adjustment to two lanes “shouldn’t result in intersection delays.”
“This is going to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists and reduce vehicle collisions,” she said. “It’s a good investment.”
In other council news:
- Ian Robertson of the city’s panhandling committee gave a report on a new program called “Change for the Better” that would incorporate an outreach effort to direct panhandlers to local social service programs. The idea would also encourage residents to provide financial support to local agencies instead of giving directly to panhandlers. Spokane Valley police have estimated that around 90 percent of the handouts go to purchase drugs or alcohol. “We’re letting people know there is a better way to help,” Robertson said.
- Several members of the Spokane Valley Business Association described how local commerce continues to be impacted by the one-way traffic on Sprague between University and Thierman. Mike King of Stonemark Real Estate provided council with a report documenting the number of vacant buildings since the couplet went into effect in 2000. King said the configuration benefits “commuter convenience” while being “devastating to local business.” Council has discussed the possibility of putting the issue of one-way traffic on a future ballot.
- Council approved the award of bid to Acme Concrete Paving Co. for a project to install a concrete intersection at Sprague and Sullivan. The company bid $835,000 for the work. Federal grants will cover nearly 87 percent of the project.
- Council accepted the six-year Transportation Improvement Program by a unanimous vote. The document, which outlines road upgrades between 2011 and 2016, was discussed at a council study session on May 4 and presented at a public hearing on May 25.