A request for a Washington state Transportation Improvement Board grant got a tweaking Tuesday that didn’t get the full support of the Spokane Valley City Council.
In a 4-3 vote, the council decided that any state funding to improve University Road between 16th Avenue and Dishman-Mica Road would have to incorporate the current four-lane configuration. Previously, when the council approved the grant request on July 22, the project called for a reduction to two lanes each way with a center turn lane along with bike lanes.
At the Aug. 12 meeting, however, Mayor Dean Grafos asked city staffers to bring the issue back before the council with information on whether or not that portion of University could remain four lanes and still have space for bicyclists. The council assented through consensus, although some members clearly are not on board with the move.
Still – with the grant applications not due until today (Friday) – city staffers said they would have time to make any necessary adjustments. On Tuesday, city engineers said the city would likely score higher with the safety improvements that a three-lane structure would offer. They did concede, however, that there would be just enough space to do the necessary work, keep the four lanes (although narrower at 10 feet instead of 12 in some areas) and add 5-foot bike lanes going each direction.
But, they said, with three lanes there would be room for a 2-foot buffer between traffic and the bike lanes. Statistics also show there are fewer T-bone type crashes at intersections as drivers approaching the opposite direction only have one lane of oncoming traffic to deal with.
For those reasons alone, Council Member Chuck Hafner said he wanted to stay with the council’s previous decision for a three-lane format.
“I’m just looking at this from a safety standpoint,” he said. “I don’t know who or what will benefit from four lanes.”
Council Member Ed Pace said it was his “gut feeling” that the majority of drivers who use that section of roadway would prefer it to stay at four lanes. When asked by Hafner whom Pace had talked with, Pace said it was just his feeling.
Council Member Ben Wick wondered aloud why the council would want to keep the four-lane configuration when three lanes would score better and allow the city a better chance to secure grant funding.
Council Member Bill Bates agreed.
“I think our decision back on July 22 was the right one,” Bates said.
Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard countered that the reasons for the change, for him, didn’t warrant it.
“I don’t have an engineering degree, but then there’s common sense,” he said. “I just don’t see the problem. I don’t think you’ll see much of a reduction in accidents.”
With Pace, Grafos and Council Member Rod Higgins concurring, the amendment passed with a majority.