Palouse Area Environmental Update

By David Hall, Community Member

The Proposed Third Street Multi-Modal Bridge at Mountain View

Many in Moscow have spoken strongly against a proposed bridge for motorized traffic across Paradise Creek at Third Street and Mountain View Road. Many are in favor of a pedestrian-bicycle-only bridge there.

For a while, Moscow was planning to build a pedestrian-bicyclist bridge, with an estimated cost of $80,000. A fund was set up by the City to collect donations. But now, somehow, $580,000 has been found in the General Fund and Street Fund to misguidedly build a “multi-modal” (pedestrian-bicycle-motor vehicle) bridge. More than half a million dollars for the bridge? Add to that the possibility of much more for traffic calming and other mitigation measures down the road.

At the August 7, 2017, City Council meeting, the Vice Chair of the Moscow Pathways Commission pointed out that the Commission had written a letter in favor of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge, not a motorized vehicle bridge, on Third Street. She noted that there is a multi-million dollar line item in the City budget for a multi-modal bridge connecting Third Street through to Mountain View Road. Another member of the Moscow Pathways Commission was told by City staff that “when the City had considered the cost of the bike and pedestrian bridge they decided they might as well go forward with the multi-modal bridge.” [Moscow Pathways Commission meeting minutes, August 8, 2017]

Installing a multi-modal bridge over Paradise Creek would be uniquely disastrous for Third Street residents and bicycle riders, as Third Street is a direct extension of the Pullman Highway from the west to Main Street. Currently, traffic bound to the east from Main Street is nicely diffused – primarily among “D”, “B,” and Sixth Streets, and Highway 8. With such a bridge, Third Street – one of our best routes for bicycling through town and a route adjacent to parks, schools, and such – would get hammered.

According to a study provided to the city that predicts traffic counts at various locations throughout the city, if a motorized bridge was installed, the traffic passing through the intersection at Third and Garfield would almost triple (from 1,300 to 3,500 vehicles per day) by the year 2035. Traffic would rise to 2,300 vehicles per day at Third Street and Mountain View Road. At “D” and Garfield, traffic is predicted to decrease by about 4% with the multi-modal bridge and traffic-calming measures. (Third Street Connection Assessment (Daily 2035 Forecast Volumes), figure 4-3, City Council packet page 37)

 Nearly tripling the motor vehicle traffic on Third Street does not promote the use of low impact modes of travel. Nor would it limit the impact on local air quality, water quality, and global climate change.

Barriers such as major arterials and topography can limit mobility options. Turning Third Street from a nice bicycling route into a major arterial will certainly limit non-motorized mobility.

The City recently removed parking along parts of Third Street and painted lines signifying a bike path. Installing a motorized-traffic bridge over Paradise Creek would work against these improvements.

The best way to mitigate is to avoid the problem in the first place. The Moscow On The Move document states that the “full-access multi-modal connection providing facilities for motor vehicles” will attract new motor vehicle use of Third Street. The traffic model indicates that yet-to-be-designed traffic calming measures would yield a 20% reduction in traffic out of a nearly 300% increase – which is much too small.