An old idea is being dusted off to potentially grab freeway travelers who might otherwise bypass the city of Spokane Valley: The business route.
On Tuesday, the Spokane Valley City Council enthusiastically gave its consensus to further study the possibility of adding signage to the Sprague Avenue freeway exit that would display the old, familiar green-shielded “Business Route” logo with the Interstate 90 insignia in order to entice eastbound travelers to steer their way to Exit 285.
The signs – which would total about $60,000 – could then direct drivers along Sprague to either the Barker Road or Country Vista Drive interchanges to get back on I-90. Wayfinding signs, steering motorists toward Valley attractions like CenterPlace or the Heritage Museum, could also be added.
The idea of a business route -- where out-of-area tourists could feel comfortable getting off the freeway, see the local sights and be on their way again – is a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s when federal interstate routes often skipped cities and towns that had long benefited from pre-existing highway travelers. Sprague Avenue, known as “the Appleway” in the earlier part of the 20th century, had been such a highway.
As time went on, however, business routes became about as frequent as drive-in movie theaters and full-service gas stations.
“Business routes are kind of getting phased out,” said Inga Note, senior traffic engineer.
But as the economy continues to crawl out of the latest recession, city leaders are looking for innovative – and inexpensive – ways to lure tourists and their valuable sales tax dollars.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Council Member Dean Grafos, who said the $60,000 price tag to augment existing freeway signage is more palatable than the $300,000 discussed for new signs to be constructed on I-90.
“Let’s move forward,” agreed Council Member Chuck Hafner.
Business route approval still must come from the state, and Note said a committee that studies the requests won’t meet again until next spring. City Manager Mike Jackson added that the $60,000 amount has not been budgeted for 2013, but he would report back to council on some options.
In other news, the council also heard a report on the city’s snow-removal plan for this winter. Spokane Valley continues to offer 24-hour, seven-day-a-week snowplowing through its own small crew and additional contract personnel when needed, said Eric Guth, public works director.
Talk, however, eventually turned to snow berms that block driveways after plows move through neighborhoods.
Council Member Ben Wick said he hopes the city can think up some ways to offer citizens services to help clear driveway openings – either through volunteers or private-plowing services – as a measure of good faith.
Jackson said those efforts would continue, and that e-mail notifications and updates on the city’s Web site will be a part of that strategy.
Grafos said he would also like to encourage business owners to clear snow from sidewalks in front of their buildings, and that City Hall should set an example.
“I agree,” Jackson said. “We should do that.”