Thursday, August 26, 2010

City In Talks About Route Favored By Bicyclists

I struck up a conversation at the first Spokane Summer Parkways event earlier this summer with a gentleman who had some feedback on bicycling in Spokane. In particular, he was curious about the fate of a route he currently uses, but was hesitant to mention it, because it's not a 'sanctioned' route and has been barricaded to keep people out. He would like the barricades removed to make it safer for bicyclists but was afraid if he brought it up to anyone 'official' it might draw attention to the route and it would be shut down completely.

Well sir, it turns out the wheels were in motion before I ever talked to you. The route is an old barricaded bridge over the railroad tracks in the vicinity of Alki and Fiske streets between Sprague and Trent. I've been told that it saves some serious time for riders as there is nowhere else to cross the tracks in the area.

I checked with Grant Wencel, the City of Spokane's Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator who told me that Burlington Northern Santa Fe owns the bridge. It turns out that the City has been in talks with BNSF for quite a while about this route. BNSF says the bridge is unsafe and plans to leave the barricades up until they can tear the whole bridge down, which they have only said will happen 'soon.'

The City would like to retain access over the railway for a potential future
crossing, as they recognize that there are a limited number of safe bike/ped crossings of the railroad tracks in the area. Grant believes that City legal staff is in conversation with BNSF about this issue. This route is also a bike route according to the City's Master Bike Plan.

The Bicycle Advisory Board was informed of this earlier this week and agree that it is important to retain crossing rights for a possible future bridge. So the good news is that the City recognizes the need for a crossing in this location and is working to maintain it. The bad news is it's probably going to take a while and there's no guarantee that BNSF will agree to it. Hang in there folks.


max said...

I worked on purchasing a 40' x 20' parcel, 1/2 of a left over right of way from an old spur in the middle of the city not connected to any other rights of way and it was a year long process. . .for 800sqft. The folks at BNSF are nice, but I have to compare it to a federal agency in its level of serious bureaucracy.

SRTC Staff said...

Speaking from experience Max, I'd say it's actually SLOWER than government. As a government worker, my favorite saying is, 'Moving at the speed of government,' but even that doesn't apply in this case.

John Speare said...

This bridge is on my favorite route that we added to the MBP. We made a point of putting the Fiske bridge on the plan to save it.

Max said...

Sorry SRTC- the DOT's/COG's move faster than the branches of gov't that I typically work with . . . much faster. . . and I shouldn't mention them for fear of angering them.

rory said...

what would it take to make the ol' bridge structurally sound for peds/bikes?

SRTC Staff said...

The feeling I'm getting from the City is that BNSF considers it beyond rehabilitating so won't talk numbers.

Jon Snyder said...

I believe this bridge is the same site featured in the Spokesman's recent article about the "boy aviator" who crash landed and died in Spokane:

The guy featured in the piece wants to do a memorial there. What better memorial than a refurbished bike/ped bridge named after the aviator? The gentlement's contact info was featured in the print edition but I don't see it online.