Driving to the Spokane Valley Mall and surrounding retail area has never been a walk in the park.
Last week, the journey got a little tougher.
The west half of the Sullivan Road/Indiana Avenue intersection was closed while Sullivan traffic was funneled down to one lane in each direction last week as part of a construction project that is anticipated to last until Sept. 13.
An extensive resurfacing project began last week at the juncture of Sullivan Road and Indiana Avenue near the Spokane Valley Mall. In addition to a new intersection, an eastbound right turn lane will be added on Indiana. Photo by: Craig Howard
The reconfiguration meant motorists exiting Sullivan from eastbound or westbound Interstate 90 would probably be late for that lunch meeting at Red Robin or farther down the line at Sports Authority while purchasing that new pair of jogging shoes. There will be no westbound access to Indiana off Sullivan from any direction until Aug. 21 when work begins on the southeast corner of the intersection.
Drivers were encouraged to use the Evergreen exit to reach the mall and other destinations west of Indiana.
“It’s going to be congested for awhile as motorists adjust,” said Carolbelle Branch, spokeswoman for the city of Spokane Valley, after the first several days of the project last week.
Radio and television reports got the word out about the adjustment on Aug. 1 while the city has done its part to alert businesses impacted by the project. Branch estimates that close to 50 commercial sites were contacted personally by representatives from the city.
Branch said the response has been anything but antagonistic.
“We’re just trying to make sure people know about it,” she said. “I never anticipated that citizens would be so understanding.”
By mid-September, a new concrete intersection will be installed at the junction of Sullivan and Indiana. The project will also add an eastbound right-turn lane on Indiana.
The city hosted a public information meeting at the Valley Mall in June and sent out mailers that included details of the project and maps.
“I think the city did a good job of letting us know what would be happening,” said Jack Marr, who manages the Walt Worthy commercial building east of Sullivan.
As construction began, Marr said he “has not heard one complaint” from any of the building’s tenants. Meanwhile, businesses west of Sullivan on Indiana like Wheatland Bank report no slowdown in customer traffic over the first week of construction.
“People know it’s going to be an inconvenience, but they’re dealing with it,” Marr said.
From Aug. 21 through Aug. 31, traffic will be reduced to one lane going westbound on Indiana while no turns will be allowed eastbound off Sullivan. By Sept. 1, traffic will return to one lane eastbound and one lane westbound on Indiana, east of the intersection. During that same time, the east turn off Indiana from southbound Sullivan will be closed. Signs at Trent and Euclid will alert southbound traffic on Sullivan to continue to Barker Road before connecting to westbound I-90 and taking Sullivan exit 291B.
The latest project recalls a three-week overhaul of Sullivan in July 2007 that impacted primary exits and resulted in stop-and-go traffic while asphalt was replaced with concrete. Two years earlier, motorists adjusted to similar delays when an on-ramp was installed in the same area off I-90.
Overall cost of the most recent project is $1.2 million with Spokane Valley covering $249,000. The balance comes from contributions by several entities, including the Spokane Transit Authority, a local developer and the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven said his department works with the Spokane Valley Public Works office to monitor safety conditions on alternative routes when construction is taking place. He said emphasis patrols will be called in when motorists begin taking reckless detours, speeding down side streets or ignoring portable stop signs.
“We want to instill safety on these streets,” Van Leuven said.
Van Leuven said drivers can do their part by staying focused while passing through work zones.
“We want people to pay attentions and be patient,” he said. “It’s important to be alert and stay off your cell phones. You don’t want distractions like texting.”
The city of Spokane Valley posts the latest traffic alerts online at www.spokanevalley.org. Residents can click on the weekly traffic alert link under the “City News” section of the home page. Weekly updates on traffic and construction can also be heard by calling the city’s traffic info line at 720-5311.