Businesses brace for bridge project

Road at state line to be closed two years; Trail to be re-aligned

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Motorist travel across the Spokane River bridge at Stateline as they make their way into Idaho Tuesday. The bridge is scheduled to be closed for two years once a replacement project begins in late May or early June.

STATELINE - Businesses near the state line are hoping faithful customers and an emerging retail project nearby softens the economic blow of the Appleway bridge being closed for replacement during the next two years.

The deteriorating two-lane bridge over the Spokane River at the state line, built in 1939, is expected to be closed from late May or early June until spring 2012 while it's replaced with a new one.

It serves as one of the access points to businesses in the Stateline area. After the bridge is complete, the Centennial Trail will be realigned in that area, going below the bridge and have a looped path that leads to a 10-foot recreation lane on the bridge.

Businesses believe construction will affect their sales, but not to the point of closure.

"We do get a fair share of customers coming off the bridge, but people can still come on Seltice or Wellesley," said Kendall Shedd, who works at the Seltice Way Stop'n Go in Stateline. "I've talked to a lot of our customers, and they're devoted and regular so they'll keep coming here."

Shedd said Cabela's, a Walmart that's under construction and other large and future businesses in that area should also help continue to draw people.

Pete Marion, the events coordinator for Cabela's, said even the large outdoor retailer has pondered the bridge closure but realizes it's best for the long term.

"We are confident our loyal customers will still be able to get to our store," Marion said. "This is a growing area and the bridge improvement will not only help Cabela's but also help the current and future businesses in the area."

Traffic on Interstate 90 will still be able to access Stateline and the project Cabela's and Walmart anchors, exiting on Pleasantview Road on the Idaho side and Harvard Road in the Liberty Lake area on the Washington side. Both Seltice Way in Idaho and Wellesley Avenue in Washington go into Stateline. Commercial traffic must use Pleasant View-Seltice during construction.

Neil Carroll, Spokane County's bridge engineer, said he realizes the closure will have an impact on business, but the current bridge is limiting commerce as the posted weight limit is 10,000 pounds due to deteriorating concrete and cracked hinges.

"I wish we didn't have to put (businesses) in a position like that, but we don't want what happened in Minneapolis (with a bridge collapse)," Carroll said. "We sincerely recognize that this will cause an inconvenience and challenges for the motoring public."

Commercial trucks such as those that haul concrete or garbage, semis and school buses have not been allowed to use the bridge due to the restriction, but fire agencies have been granted a special arrangement with smaller rigs for emergency purposes.

Carroll said a bridge on Harvard just across the line failed about 10 years ago and the Appleway bridge to be replaced is similar in condition to that.

He said a temporary bridge can't be built or another can't be constructed in a different place due to the lack of funding and environmental impacts.

The Centennial Trail project will eliminate an at-grade crossing on Appleway, which has been a safety concern for bicyclists and runners.

Carroll said environmental rules will require the bridge project to start by at least June 15, but he expects it will begin roughly two weeks before.

Harcon Construction was awarded the job by Spokane County commissioners on Tuesday. It had the lowest of six bids for the project at $6.19 million, well below the engineer's estimate.

"I think we were conservative in our estimate and I think there's a very competitive environment for bidding," he said, adding that material costs are down and companies are hungry for work.

The federal government will pay for 80 percent of the project and Spokane County 20 percent.

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