As area motorists chart their resolutions for 2011, patience in construction zones should probably be included somewhere on the list.
Along with the typical inventory of street maintenance, the new year will bring a healthy portion of concrete and asphalt to Spokane Valley in the form of capital projects. In the case of an upgrade at the intersection of Sullivan Road and Indiana Avenue near the Spokane Valley Mall, the city has already discussed the forecasted ripple effect with surrounding retailers.
“We’re working with businesses to minimize the impact on traffic,” said Steve Worley, a senior engineer with Spokane Valley who oversees capital projects.
The facelift at Sullivan and Indiana will likely occur sometime in July or August, Worley said. Similar to projects in the summer of 2009 involving junctions of Sprague Avenue at Pines, McDonald and Evergreen, the asphalt will be replaced with sturdier concrete. Pedestrian amenities and stormwater systems will also be on the agenda.
Prior to the intersection renovation, Indiana Avenue will be extended east of Sullivan to the crossroads of Mission and Flora. The project – which will also include the construction of a roundabout – will likely take place in June, Worley said.
The most publicized road adjustment of 2011 will happen on Broadway Avenue where lanes will be reduced from four to two with a center turn lane between Pines and Park roads. The proposed changes initiated both support and criticism from area residents as well as city leaders. Local cyclists, in particular, showed up in droves at City Hall to voice their support of the idea to implement safety measures for pedestrians and bikers.
In June, the City Council voted 4-2 to move ahead with the work. Grant funding will cover 80 percent of the project’s cost – to the tune of $933,000 – while the city will account for the remaining 20 percent. Spokane Valley faced the possibility of losing the grant money if the construction does not wrap up by the end of 2011.
“This is going to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists and reduce vehicle collisions,” said resident Cathy Harris at the June meeting. “It’s a good investment.”
Spokane Valley found three of its future projects – Sullivan Road corridor, Bridging the Valley and Sprague Avenue resurfacing – ranking among the top five on a list of regionally significant projects as compiled by the Washington Transportation Commission.
On the maintenance front, the city continues to invest in the consistent upkeep of roads based on a pavement management program implemented in 2006. The program is one component of a comprehensive document known as the Street Master Plan, an anthology chronicling the condition of over 400 miles of Spokane Valley roads.
In June 2007, council members heard a presentation from Chuck Larson of JUB Engineers, the company hired by the city to compile the report. Larson described how one mile of road – if properly maintained through practices like fog sealing and micropaving – could be safely sustained at a cost of $241,000 over a 10-year period. On the other hand, the same stretch of pavement, if neglected over a decade, would run $2.4 million to replace.
Worley said the city has taken the task of regular road care to heart.
“Obviously if we’re not doing something to maintain our streets, they’re going to decline,” he said. “We’re trying to maintain them for as long as we can.”
A modern tracking approach, utilizing trucks with laser technology, has been updating the pavement management program this year. Operating on a rotating schedule, the latest evaluation includes one-half of Spokane Valley arterials and one-third of local access streets.
Faced with declining revenue from sales tax and the statewide gas tax, Spokane Valley passed a 6-percent phone tax that went into effect last January. The resulting funds – estimated to be in the neighborhood of $4 million annually – have been a critical support in the effort to maintain streets, according to Public Works Director Neil Kersten who said the revenue has meant “an increased level and quantity of work over what we’ve had in the past.”