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Spokane Valley eyes millions for sidewalks and school crossings

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(The Center Square) – Spokane Valley could save millions on a plan to improve sidewalks and transportation infrastructure near schools if approved for two grant programs intended to promote bicycle and foot traffic.

The Spokane Valley City Council voted on Tuesday to formally apply for the grants after moving to start the application process last week. With almost $50 million up for grabs between the two programs, city officials hope to secure at least $6.6 million for its projects.

The Pedestrian/Bicycle Program and Safe Routes to School Program both serve the same purpose, but guidelines indicate a single project can only receive funding from one of the grants; so, the city recommended five projects, three under SRTS and two under PBP.

Utility Engineering Manager Adam Jackson said the grants would fund multiple upgrades to school crossings, including new marked paths, pedestrian beacons, medians and curb extensions that reduce overall street width if approved.

In addition, the city is asking for funds to construct a roundabout and upgrade over 4,000 feet of sidewalk, he said.

“Sidewalk-only projects are a challenge,” Jackson said. “The funding programs look to get the biggest bang for their buck and save or eliminate crash potential as best as possible.”

He said the city struggles to secure funding for sidewalk projects, but it’s not impossible. Pedestrian walkways are hot tickets for people in the Valley, as Jackson frequently receives calls from residents pleading for better sidewalks around town.

While the sidewalk projects are placed lower on the list, if there’s any time to fund them, it’s now. Jackson recommended that the city ask for the funds in full, except for $600,000, which it had already devoted toward the roundabout coming to Barker Road.

Councilmember Al Merkel voiced his support for grants, highlighting the minimal cost to constituents given that no local match is required. He paused, however, on the weighted evaluation process that scores the projects.

One of the biggest factors used to weigh the importance of a project under the grants is equity, which Merkel sees as a misstep. He noted that the council should advance projects that are most important to their constituents before letting equity drive local decisions.

“I understand the equity kind of lens is something kind of pushed on us,” Councilmember Ben Wick said, “but I appreciate [Jackson] just pulling from our project list and six-year program.”

The five projects are estimated to cost $7.2 million in total. If fully approved and funded, Spokane Valley would receive $6.6 million under the grant programs around June 2025.

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