A new plan for Fort George Wright Drive near Spokane Falls Community College is in the works to make it safer for all users. According to an article in today’s Spokesman-Review, instead of four lanes of traffic along a street lined with a few trees and utility poles, the arterial would have two lanes, townhomes, restaurants, bike lanes, a treed median and traffic lights.
Developed by the Spokane Transit Authority and the West Hills neighborhood, the plan seeks to capitalize on development near the college campus that has taken place over the last decade. That includes the construction of the River Run housing subdivision and hundreds of transitional and low-income housing going up on the former Sisters of the Holy Names property.
In 2015, STA approached the neighborhood with a plan to develop a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood center. This past spring, STA was awarded $2.1 million in mobility grants, state transportation money intended to improve local transit and reduce congestion on heavily trafficked roads. That money will be used to build a transit station and bus shelters on campus, and a new traffic signal at Fort George Wright and Elliott Drive, allowing buses to load and unload passengers away from the busy road, which it currently uses. That’s the first step toward making the plan come to life.
Construction on the station is expected to begin and be completed in 2019. Darren Pitcher, president of SFCC, said that while SFCC “is supportive of the improvements, and very vested in the future of the neighborhood,” it hasn’t signed off on the complete plan yet, primarily due to the parking the college loses if the plan builds a “city center” of sorts in the college’s parking lot.
West Hills neighborhood neighborhood representatives want Fort George Wright Drive to be part of a “loop” with Kendall Yards, the Centennial Trail and the Sandifur Bridge, but some drivers who travel through the area are worried about narrowing the roadway. Some residents are worried about new town houses blocking views of downtown.