Spokane City Council names pedestrian span ‘University District Gateway Bridge’

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

(as reported in The Spokesman-Review by Kip Hill)

The massive, 120-foot tall bridge taking shape at the edge of the bustling University District east of downtown has its name.

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday night to dub the $12 million span for pedestrians and cyclists “The University District Gateway Bridge,” adopting the placeholder name the span has been known as for years. The decision follows the recommendation of the Spokane Plan Commission, which elected in March not to name the bridge after a specific person despite public interest in honoring the celebrated Spokane artist Howard Balazs, who died in December.

“What they realized is that, with the type of structure being named, there were no names of people either living or dead that really reflected the value of the bridge,” said Andrew Worlock, a planner with the city of Spokane overseeing the naming effort.

Other options under consideration included a Salish name that translated in English to “Spokane Way,” “The U Crossing,” “The U District Nexus” or “The People’s Unity Bridge.” City Council members could have adopted any of those names, or decided their own moniker for the bridge, but opted to follow the recommendation of the Plan Commission, which began considering names for the structure in February after receiving 281 potential titles from the public.

“I think it’s a really good process, a really public process,” said City Councilwoman Candace Mumm. “I think you came up with a good name.”

The 12-story tall, cable-stayed bridge is slated for completion in September, according to the city. Its construction is being funded with $8.8 million in state transportation dollars, $2.6 million in property and sales taxes collected from within the University District and about $330,000 in local funding. Once built, the top of its concrete arches will still fall short of Riverfront Park’s clocktower (155 feet tall), and U.S. Pavilion (145 feet tall). The bridge will rival the height of the Spokane County Courthouse (125 feet tall).

Originally envisioned in 2004, the bridge is intended to link the more than $740 million in private and public investments in the University District with the lower South Hill and the newly rebuilt East Sprague Avenue by giving commuters the option to cross railroad tracks owned by BNSF.

City Councilman Mike Fagan, who’s been a critic of the bridge’s price tag, said he still hadn’t been swayed Monday night but voted to approve the name selected by commissioners.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” Fagan said before Monday’s vote. “We’ll have to see it when the Erector Set finally gets put together.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Way east of Division Street closed earlier this month to facilitate work on the bridge. That closure is expected to continue until mid-August as Garco Construction completes its work.

City Council President Ben Stuckart and City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear were absent Monday and didn’t vote on the naming.

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 to correct the name of Martin Luther King Jr. Way.