Frustration grows over bridge closure near Airway Heights

Dozens of people living outside of Airway Heights say the closure of a wooden bridge is more than just an inconvenience, it’s a threat to their safety.

Spokane county engineers found two critical failures in the Euclid Road bridge in June. It’s been closed and neighbors have been forced to take a 3-mile detour which can take up to 15 minutes on a washboard gravel road. Some neighbors leave vehicles on the south side of the bridge and walk across.

“Everybody around here is frustrated,” said Sam Fleming, who lives just a few hundred feet away from the bridge. “Frustrated at the lack of communication, frustrated with the lack of accountability.”

The bridge, re-built in 1980 following a fire is owned by Burlington Northern Railroad Company. County Commissioner Al French said it’s their responsibility to re-build it.

“What we have out there right now is unacceptable,” French told a group of nearly 100 people who attended a town hall meeting Monday night. “It’s not acceptable from our standards, it’s not acceptable to yours.”

Several people asked French to put more pressure on Burlington Northern.

“Yes, I’m angry. Because I don’t think the work is being done by you guys [Commissioners] to push the people who are going to pay for this to get it done fast enough,” one man said.

French said he’s been in contact with the railroad company and that they have hired an analyst to look into the project. French expects to have more answers by the end of September. Planning and construction could take at lest a year.

One woman told French that a family member had to be airlifted after having a stroke because an ambulance got lost and took too long on the detour which neighbors say is not designed to handle the current amount of traffic.

French said it would cost $1.3 million to pave the entire stretch. Instead, the county is considering a gravel stabilization plan, which would add 3-inches of gravel treated with magnesium chloride.

French said the county is prepared to ask Burlington Northern to chip in for some road costs. Neighbors fear what might happen in the spring. They told French some portions of Newkirk Road wash away and turn to mud.