Seeking a regional road approach
Survey indicates most West Plains residents leave the area for work
The first steps to planning future regional roads took place last Thursday night, March 21 at Sunset Elementary School in Airway Heights.
The city of Spokane hosted the first of two workshops to gain public input on developing a united regional transportation plan.
Participants included the city of Spokane, Spokane County and Airway Heights.
Bill Grimes, principal with Studio Cascade, Inc., said the plan will factor in plans for the typical major highways as well as non-motorized transportation methods for groups like bicyclists and pedestrians.
“We want to make sure the plan is consistent with the vision of various jurisdictions,” he said. “We have to think about what they’re going to look like.”
Project coordinators are looking at an area that runs just west of Spokane along both I-90 and Highway 2, including all of the major roads in between; as far north as Riverside State Park and going south to Cheney. East to west, the project begins at the Sunset Hill and runs just past the western boundary of Fairchild Air Force Base.
“The scope of this area, it’s big,” Grimes said. “This is quite a large area that we’re trying to connect.”
With the West Plains poised to grow at a fast rate in the very near future, planners are turning their attention to ensure roadways can handle transportation at an urban scale. Up until recently, the area functioned largely as an industrial hub, with Airway Heights having an urban roadway system in place.
“This area wasn’t designed to develop at an urban level,” Grimes said.
The study area for transportation focused largely on the Highway 2 corridor.
At a previous open house, the Spokane Regional Transportation Council conducted a survey of non-motorized transportation users. While, according to them, the number of respondents was low, some clear trends appeared regarding walking in the survey area. Over 70 percent of respondents said traffic being too fast or busy and having too few sidewalks prevented them from walking in the study area.
At last week’s workshop, Grimes said the average daily traffic on I-90 between Highway 195 and Highway 2 was 66,000 vehicles per day. Of those, 36,000 trips continue west while 34,000 head out to the West Plains, the airport and Airway Heights.
“This is a pretty significant change in traffic,” Grimes said.
The big area of concern for Grimes and his crew is Highway 2. Average daily traffic east of Flint Road carried 28,000 trips, a number that remained steady once it reached Hayford Road, which sees between 26,000 and 28,000 trips.
Karl Otterstrom, director of planning for the Spokane Transit Authority, said a good portion of that traffic is coming from northwest Spokane.
Moving south just a little, Grimes said 6,400 trips take place on the intersection of SR 902 and Craig Road. The survey findings indicated many people use Craig Road to bypass the freeway and go into Medical Lake.
“It’s becoming more of an access route,” he said.
While a large amount of traffic takes place in the study area, the survey found many residents travel outside of the study area for work. In fact, more people live in the area and work in Seattle than in Cheney or Medical Lake.
“You are in an area that is jobs-rich,” Grimes said. “You have way more employment than you have houses.”
Around 10,380 jobs were found in the planning area, but only 471 live and work in the area. The mobile population exports 2,700 people to work elsewhere.
The second workshop will take place Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. once again at Sunset Elementary school in Airway Heights.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.