Get ready for a possible U-turn on Sprague Avenue.
It could cost upward of $5 million to $6.4 million and cause motorists to relearn how to navigate Spokane Valley’s main thoroughfare, but the Spokane Valley City Council is preparing to let voters decide whether or not they want to change Sprague Avenue back to a two-way arterial between University and Dishman-Mica roads. And parallel Appleway Boulevard would get the same treatment between the exact same boundaries.
The council will make their final decision whether to go forward with the election in a special meeting planned for Monday, Aug. 15, in order to meet Spokane County Elections Office deadlines for the general election.
“The bottom line is, there’s no reason not to go forward,” Ross Kelley, former Spokane County engineer and now managing principal of the HDR Engineering consulting firm, told the Spokane Valley City Council on Tuesday night. “It works is what I’m telling you.”
HDR was contracted by Spokane Valley last month to perform an initial $40,000 study on the impacts of converting the beleaguered decade-old one-way couplet back to two-way status between University and Dishman-Mica. Most importantly, the work was to done to see if there were any “fatal flaws” in the plan that could preclude going forward with a Nov. 8 ballot question.
While there was nothing “fatal” that some turn restrictions couldn’t cure, the 28,500 to 31,500 cars a day on Sprague expected by 2030 would flow better under the existing configuration, Kelley said. The intersections of Sprague and University and Appleway and more so Appleway and Dishman-Mica would be “very close to failing” 20 years from now under a change to two-way during peak commute times, he said.
In order to avoid future traffic slowdowns, Kelley suggested not allowing westbound traffic on Appleway to turn left from Dishman-Mica. The closely spaced intersections of Argonne and Mullan on Sprague could also be trouble that could be avoided by prohibiting an eastbound left turn at Mullan. “Turn pockets” – lanes where only cars making turns can use – at Sprague and Mullan – would also be beneficial, he said.
Cost for the conversion of Sprague and Appleway – striping, signals and upgrades to meet American Disability Act standards – would cost $1.6 million alone. Repaving the aging streets and making stormwater upgrades would be another $1.8 million. And landscaping could tack on $1 million for basic work or $3 million in “Cadillac style” along the corridor.
“That’s a pretty big spread, but it gives you a lot of leeway,” Kelley said.
Council Member Arne Woodard asked that if the second phase of the study – which is estimated to cost between $40,000 and $60,000 – could reveal any other potential problem intersections.
Kelley said it could, as the modeling would be more in depth and have greater accuracy based on 1.5 percent growth in Spokane Valley over the next two decades.
Council Member Dean Grafos asked if 2 percent growth might be more accurate, but Kelly said he doesn’t think so.
“We’ve never seen 2 percent growth in the Valley,” he said. “That’s why we didn’t use it.”
Sprague Avenue businessman Dick Behm, who has long advocated for a return to two-way traffic in the area under discussion, said that traffic was drained away from Sprague Avenue in 2003 when Interstate 90 was widened to three lanes through Spokane Valley. He also wondered what the configuration of Sprague would look like.
“I thought it would be two lanes both ways with a center turn lane,” he said. “I don’t see that addressed in here.”
David Hazzard said he doesn’t believe converting Sprague and Appleway would “help that much” Sprague businesses that do not see afternoon eastbound traffic as most shoppers are now going to businesses on Sullivan Road.
“It’s a $5 million guessing game,” he said.
Grafos agreed, saying taxpayer money would be better spent elsewhere. However, he believes Spokane Valley citizens should have the final say.
“We should put it up for a vote of the people,” he said.
Woodard agreed, saying that the businesspeople he talked to about the subject “are not very happy it’s even being considered” to convert Sprague and Appleway. But he is convinced a vote is necessary.
“I think it’s the only way to put this to bed,” he said.
Neil Kersten, city engineer, said the costs could rise if it’s determined that additional turn lanes are needed for some of the intersections. Then there is the issue of the landscaping.
“I’d rather go the high $3 million,” said Council Member Brenda Grassel. “Sprague is our main thoroughfare.”
The council voted 6-0 for staff to draft a ballot measure for consideration on Aug. 15. Council Member Bill Gothmann was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.