Near the close of a three-hour meeting on Tuesday night, the Liberty Lake City Council put the brakes on a proposed resolution that would have mapped out transportation improvements through 2017.
Resolution No. 11-151, outlining close to 20 street projects from 2012-2017 – was tabled after the council could not reach a consensus on extending the 10 p.m. deadline. The roadblock came in the form of concern from two council members – Ryan Romney and Josh Beckett – who lobbied for further review of the document before final passage.
Most of Romney’s questions were focused on a portion of the plan that outlines the formation of a central business district that would narrow a segment of Liberty Lake Road – acknowledged as the city’s main retail thoroughfare – and add pedestrian amenities as well as streetscaping.
Doug Smith, Liberty Lake’s community development director, provided an update on the CBD back in June, describing how it would create a civic hub representing “the primary government, social and retail center of the city.”
Romney said he was concerned “that the city had not talked to businesses” about the potential impact of the CBD on traffic along the road. The plan also calls for a mix of residential and commercial uses as well as alternative transportation.
Liberty Lake resident Mary Munger expressed similar apprehension in the public comment segment of the meeting, asking specifically how the two major grocery outlets in town, Albertson’s and Safeway, felt about the CBD. Both stores are located along Liberty Lake Road. Munger added that the city “should bring the topic before citizens again.”
“Maybe this is not the project we want to support,” Munger said.
Smith pointed out that the direction of an imminent project to improve the access to Liberty Lake from Interstate 90 would hinge on inclusion the CBD among the city’s future transportation priorities. The Washington State Department of Transportation is in the process of finalizing a design that would include changes to I-90 between Barker and Harvard roads, including a reconfiguration of the current interchanges to and from each road.
One of the WSDOT scenarios involves a diverging diamond interchange with eastbound and westbound distributors connecting to Liberty Lake and Harvard roads. Smith has been critical of the idea, voicing support instead for an additional interchange into the city.
The CBD, Smith says, adds clout to the city’s stance on a new interchange because of its emphasis on dispersing traffic. He said failure to include the project in the transportation plan would mean the city losing leverage on a scenario outside the bulked up Harvard interchange.
“It’s about more than just building streets for cars, it’s about trying to build a community,” Smith said.
Smith added that leaving the CBD out of the transportation outline “would greatly reduce the chances of receiving grant funding” for such a project through the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.
The City Council is expected to readdress the resolution at its next meeting on Oct. 4.