By JOHN WILEY
SPOKANE – More than 10 years and $18.9 million in the making, Appleway Boulevard opened for traffic Wednesday, providing a new link between Spokane and its crowded eastern suburbs.
The four-lane, one-way, limited-access boulevard parallels busy E. Sprague Avenue for 2.6 miles from I-90 to the heart of the sprawling Spokane Valley. Future expansion could take the Valley bypass all the way to the Idaho border, about 25 miles east of Spokane.
The new roadway is expected to ease congestion on East Sprague, as well as I-90, which is being widened to handle increasing traffic from the growing Spokane Valley.
“I’ve been just tickled pink all day,” Wendie Kiourkas, a volunteer with the Edgecliff community-oriented police program, said after a ribbon-cutting ceremony opened Appleway Boulevard to traffic. “East Sprague was not made to handle the growth of the Spokane Valley.”
The opening marked the end of two years of construction and detours through the Edgecliff neighborhood, where about 50 residences were moved or torn down to make way for the new arterial.
Before the new boulevard was built, drivers used residential streets to bypass nearby freeway construction and traffic on E. Sprague, Kiourkas said. Motorists using Appleway no longer will speed by a nearby elementary school, she said.
“We had car chases past Pratt Elementary. We practically had to throw ourselves in front of cars to get them to slow down,” she said. “Now, it’s a relief for our whole neighborhood.”
The bypass has been part of Spokane County’s comprehensive transportation plan since 1965, County Commissioner John Roskelley said. In 1979, the county purchased Milwaukee Road right-of-way to be used for a Valley corridor, he said.
The current version is a change from a 1991 plan that called for a six-lane freeway spur from I-90 and a compromise to a 1995 plan that prompted a lawsuit by business owners, who wanted more cross streets and slower speed limits.
“Citizens and businesses got together to improve the plan,” Commissioner Phil Harris said. “A lot of businesses gave up a lot.”
Traffic engineers will spend the next two weeks removing medians and restriping a corresponding section of E. Sprague Avenue, which will become a four-lane, one-way arterial westbound.
Opening of the new boulevard does not end all disputes.
The county still is negotiating for buffer space between the boulevard and the Dishman Hills Natural Area, an undeveloped parklike area crisscrossed with hiking and bike trails.
And Roskelley’s plan to designate the bypass as Spokane County’s first scenic corridor is opposed by some business owners, who object to limits on the size and placement of advertising signs.
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