Unpaved roads continue to plague Spokane neighborhoods

SPOKANE, Wash. - Unpaved Spokane roads

It's a problem that plagues all corners of Spokane: Unpaved roads. The pocked pathways can do significant damage to cars, too, but the city won't touch them without a little cooperation from neighbors.

Dianne Carter has lived at an apartment complex at Buckeye and Hemlock since 1997, but it wasn't until a few years ago that the alleyway behind the complex, that leads to her covered parking spot, became an issue. Then, two weeks ago, the rough road took out the muffler on her car.

"That's my hot rod!" Carter exclaimed as she revved up her car sans muffler.

She's contacted the city to get the alleyway smoothed out or "graded" but found the city could do little to help.

"They said they wouldn't do anything because it isn't paved," Carter said.

Carter isn't alone. Many streets and alleys in Spokane are unpaved and for that you can blame the developer. Years ago, the city allowed developers to build on city land and leave the roads unpaved. Nowadays that is against city code and to fix the unpaved roads of the past neighbors have to get organized.

"People really do care about where they live, they care about dust, they care about wear and tear on their vehicles," Marlene Feist with the City of Spokane said.

Feist said Carter and her neighbors would have to form a Local Improvement District (LID) and agree to share the cost of paving their alley.

"The city will help you along the way and we have our engineering services folk who will design that project and bid out that project," Feist said. "We'll manage the construction for the neighbors."

Feist said the city can't grade Carter's alleyway because doing so could cause more problems and those problems are a liability to the city.

"In cases of alleys where there is no curbing and you go in and you grade and suddenly where does the storm water go? Probably into people's yards and maybe into their basements," Feist said.

Forming an LID and getting neighbors to agree to take on the cost of paving sounds like an impossible situation, but Feist says LIDs are formed successfully every year. Bob Donahoe lives in North Spokane and his neighborhood's LID project just wrapped up a month ago.

"It's really nice, they did a good job, they did a very good job," Donahoe said.

Before the LID project, Donahoe says his street was a big dust bowl. Of course, he and his neighbors will incur costs associated with such a nice amenity, but he says it's worth it.

The total cost of this LID project was $150,000. Money from Spokane's 2004 street bond will pay for half of the cost, which leaves individual homeowners footing a bill between $2,000 and $16,000. Final costs will be known at the first of the year in 2014. Property owners might also qualify for additional grant money to lower their costs and they have 10 years to pay it off at a three-percent interest rate.

"I plan on living here until I do so I have a long time, hopefully a long time to pay for it so I'm not too worried about it," Donahoe said as he chuckled.

Donahoe and a host of other homeowners have used LID to solve their bumpy roads, but Carter remains skeptical.

"I don't think the homeowners would go for it because of the taxes," Carter said.