Many attendees at last week’s open house sponsored by the Washington State Department of Transportation traveled to the event on the exact route being recommended for improvements.
Around 100 people turned out for the April 28 gathering at Hope Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, a site on the eastern fringe of city boundaries and not far from the Barker Road exit. WSDOT is collecting feedback on proposed changes to Interstate 90 between Barker and Harvard Road in Liberty Lake; an upgrade that, among other improvements, will include the addition of one lane in each direction as well as reconfigurations of the current interchanges to and from each road.
Al Gilson, a spokesman for WSDOT, said he was encouraged by the participation at the open house which featured poster-sized design options for various aspects of the project, including a trio of recommendations for the Barker/Cataldo Avenue/Boone Avenue intersection and a pair of proposals for the junction at Barker and Broadway Avenue.
“People had a lot of good questions,” said Gilson. “It was good to see this many people at the event. Too often we have open houses and don’t get this kind of turnout. I know our engineers will make refinements based on citizen input.”
Comments and suggestions were collected on cards and will be reviewed by WSDOT engineers currently working on the design phase of the work. While funding is still up in the air at this point, Gilson said it would be important “to be ready with the design” in order to qualify for state and federal dollars.
WSDOT estimates the cost for the design, right-of-way and construction to be around $85 million.
The general strategy for the project includes the previously mentioned addition of a lane in both directions from the west side of the Barker Road interchange to the Harvard Road area as well as interchange upgrades. The overcrossing and ramps in the Greenacres area would be removed to improve mainline I-90 and roadway geometrics would be addressed, including the elimination of low bridge clearances. Gilson said construction would also involve replacing the existing roadway with Portland Cement concrete, a surface he described as “more resilient” than the current pavement.
Signage, the illumination system and Intellignet Transportation System would also be updated as part of the project.
Gilson described limited bridge crossing over I-90 as one of several “operational concerns” currently being discussed.
A $15 million project to widen a 2.8-mile portion of I-90 from Sullivan Road to Barker began March 28. WSDOT estimates construction – which includes adding a third lane in each direction and repaving with Portland Cement concrete to be wrapped up by the end of the year.
Renovations to the freeway leading into Liberty Lake have been the a topic of interest in Spokane County’s easternmost city going back to a time not long after the area incorporated in 2001. Doug Smith, Liberty Lake community development director, said of the three scenarios currently proposed for the main interchange, the city would prefer something that “didn’t resemble the Harvard Road exit on steroids.”
One of the options includes replacing the Harvard Road Bridge with a four-lane structure and improving ramp connections to I-90. Another design features a diverging diamond with a collector road connecting eastbound freeway traffic to Liberty Lake Road. The final option – one that will likely not draw much applause from Liberty Lake City Hall – involves a diverging diamond interchange with eastbound and westbound distributors connecting to Liberty Lake and Harvard roads.
Smith said one of the main goals of parceling out traffic, especially from Harvard Road, is to pave the way for downtown revitalization on Liberty Lake Road along a route that currently leads through the city’s central retail area. The plan calls for wider sidewalks, a narrower roadway, improved streetscapes and commercial buildings closer to the road, an approach Smith compared to Sherman Avenue in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Access further to the west off I-90 would also enhance the developing retail district in the Country Vista Road area, Smith said.
From a funding standpoint, Liberty Lake has set aside approximately $1.5 million from property and sales tax generated through two programs – Local Infrastructure Financing Tool and Tax Increment Financing – that could be utilized for the I-90 projects. The funds have been a byproduct of the developing River District in the northwest section of Liberty Lake.
“The (LIFT/TIF) funds are not appropriated for any specific project right now, but I would anticipate a large portion going toward improvements to I-90,” Smith said.