Spokane Journal of Business

Cities, Spokane County net $5.6 million in road grants

State, federal funds to go toward fatality reductions

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The cities of Spokane, Spokane Valley and Spokane County have received more than $5.6 million in state and federal grants to reduce fatal and serious injury collisions on city streets, including $4.1 million in grants to overhaul north Monroe Street, where there have been three fatalities within the last five years, says Brandon Blankenagel, Spokane city senior engineer.

 Spokane County also has received $1.2 million in county safety awards as well. 

Under the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program, which allocates funds administered by the Washington state Department of Transportation, (WSDOT), the city was granted $3.8 million to convert north Monroe Street from five lanes to three, with a two-way left turn lane. Another grant totaling $326,800 will be used to widen curb lanes, as well as to install new pedestrian lighting, and to upgrade sidewalks, traffic signs and signals, Blankenagel says. “We will place concrete refuge islands at different intervals with pass-through for pedestrians,” he adds. 

The second grant, through the Washington state Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program, has preliminary legislative approval, Blankenagel says. “The legislature needs to formally adopt and fund the list in their 2015 session but we are ranked high on the short list,” he adds.  

Blankenagel says the improvements will improve traffic flow and increase  visibility, while improving safety. 

Although it might seem counterintuitive, he says more lanes don’t necessarily equal better traffic flow. 

“The reality is that when you take away two lanes of traffic, the three lanes remaining still serve drivers very well,” he says. “Some folks feel it’s too restrictive, but this corridor will serve the level of traffic we’re experiencing now.” 

The project scope includes a “road diet,” in urban planning jargon, from Kiernan at the top of the North Hill to Alice Street at the bottom of the hill. Existing outside travel lanes will be converted into on-street parking, he says. The traffic signal at the intersection of Montgomery Street and Monroe will be modified to accommodate pedestrian-actuated buttons, which means the light will remain green until a pedestrian pushes the button. 

The planning and design phase will be completed in 2016, Blankenagel says, and the conditions of the funding stipulate that the construction contract must be out to competitive bid by 2017. Construction will begin in the 2017-2018 period. 

He adds that a full public process during the design phase will allow time for public comments. 

Meanwhile, the city of Spokane Valley has received a $609,000 grant to make modifications to a stretch of McDonald Road between 16th Avenue and Mission Avenue, says Sean Messner, Spokane Valley senior traffic engineer. “We will be converting it from two lanes to one lane with a turning lane and striped-in bike safety lanes,” Messner says. 

He adds that the total cost of that project is $616,000 and the remaining $7,000 will come from city coffers.

Another grant of about $80,000 will be used to improve the visibility of traffic signal heads citywide, he says. The city will be installing reflective material on the back of signal heads at 10 of the Valley’s busiest intersections, he says. 

The changes will make traffic signals easier to see, he adds, for more visibility when it’s raining or foggy. Both projects will be designed over the summer and then completed.

Spokane County received about $1.2 million in county safety awards from WSDOT to collect safety data and upgrade signage on horizontal curves in the county, as well as improve and straighten the road at the intersection of Glenrose and Carnahan Roads.  

Judith  Spitzer
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Reporter Judith Spitzer covers technology, mining, agriculture, and wood products for the Journal. A vintage-obsessed antique collector in her off hours, Judith worked as a journalist in Colorado and Oregon before joining the Journal.

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