Road repair reroutes students

Last spring, thousands of drivers in North Spokane had to find different routes to get from one end of Waikiki Road to the other. Since May, the road hugging the Whitworth University campus has been blocked off, torn up and lined with detour signs. Spokane County construction engineer Paul Lennemann said the original goals of the project were to put in storm water retention wells, build a roundabout at the Waikiki and Mill intersection and do some pavement preservation.

According to a public meeting notice held in January, the Spokane County Engineer and Roads committee determined the construction on Waikiki needed to begin immediately due to the physical deterioration of the road.

Lennemann told the Spokesman-Review that Waikiki had an extremely high risk of roadway collapse if storm wells were not put in as soon as possible. With an average of 15,000 vehicles traveling this route daily, there was a profound need for reconstruction.

Lennemann’s construction project began at the Waikiki and Five Mile intersection, depositing a 17-20 footdeep storm water retention well. This section of the road is nearing completion, as the road north of the gas station is being sprayed with asphalt.

The project was also designed to reconfigure the Waikiki roadway from four lanes to three from Whitworth to Hastings Road. This will include one way for each direction, a turn lane in the center, and bike lanes on both sides for safer transitions.

Lennemann said the roundabout was included in the initial bid.

The January public meeting noted that the reconstruction of the Waikiki-Mill road intersection should reduce the high volume of collisions that take place there.

“The T-intersection only had one stop sign, so the north-south traffic didn’t have to stop — drivers were waiting for what they thought was too long and started to take risks jumping out into traffic,” Lennemann said.

The fact that drivers were taking risks in short gaps led the road committee to build the roundabout to ensure a safer way to keep traffic moving continuously.

“The roundabout forces people to play nice with each other,” Lennemann said.

The $1.78 million construction plan is nearing an end with the grand opening of the new roundabout.

“Most of the heavy construction is done, and in most places we are just prepping for the asphalt,” Lennemann said. “As far as hazards go, we are in the home stretch.”

Lennemann recommended pedestrians living on the opposite side of Wall stay on the sidewalks around construction zones. For those who drive in the area, Lennemann said they are free to use the new roundabout, as it provides a major north-south link for the northwest part of Spokane.

“We will be doing some pavement preservation all the way to Country Homes, and will be closing the road while we pave. During those few days we will be asking people to use Division,” Lennemann said. Construction south of the gas station will be the final piece of the Waikiki road work, expected to be done in October.

Jennifer Ingram Staff Writer

Contact Jennifer Ingram at jingram13@my.whitworth.edu