Spokane Valley residents will have their opportunity to give their 2 cents on the latest version of the six-year Transportation Improvement Plan at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Fair warning, though: those who plan on speaking at the public hearing should be aware that this time around, most of the work is going to center around road-preservation rather than brand-new capital projects.
That’s because city staff – due to council direction earlier in the year – is attempting to fulfill a mandate to set money aside to improve and maintain existing city roadways.
Still, as always, when work gets done or what projects are chosen are more questions of when money is available.
“Nothing is written in stone,” Steve Worley, senior capital projects engineer, told the council on May 29, adding, “This year’s plan is quite a bit different. All of this is an attempt to focus on the council’s decision to focus on street preservation.”
Several weeks ago, the council decided to set aside $2.8 million of the budget for street-preservation work, mainly highly traveled arterials.
Last week, Worley said there would be less of an emphasis on adding sidewalks or bike lanes in order to reach the council-directed goals.
Available grant dollars, however, could switch some of the projects from “want to do” to “must do now” categories.
“We can certainly adjust this as more information becomes available,” Worley said.
Council Member Ben Wick said he was concerned about missing opportunities for grants if road preservation – which traditionally isn’t a priority of state or federal funding – is the prominent city goal. But Worley emphasized again that the city could add projects in later.
“Grants are kind of a necessary evil,” said Council Member Brenda Grassel.
Council Member Dean Grafos said he did not want to wait, however, until grants became available for priority projects like Sprague Avenue in the area of Auto Row west of Argonne.
“We could wait for these grant until the cows come home,” he said. “(Waiting) is not good for the community.”
Mayor Tom Towey said that setting money aside for street preservation was a “small step” in improving city roads that many municipalities cannot do because of tight budgets.
City Manager Mike Jackson said the city is continuously looking for a solution to road maintenance that could address all its needs.
“Right now, we’re focusing on arterials,” he said. “We simply can’t get there all at once.”
After next Tuesday night’s public hearing, the council is set to vote on approving the six-year improvement plan at its June 26 meeting.