A Safer, More Environmentally Sensitive Sharp Avenue Reopens

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh speaks at the ceremony to mark the reopening of Sharp Avenue on Friday, Oct. 26. GU photo

October 26, 2018

Gonzaga News Service  

SPOKANE, Wash. — During ceremonies Friday at Gonzaga University’s northern entrance marking the reopening of Sharp Avenue, Spokane Mayor David Condon and Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh applauded the collaboration between the city and the University that both said has resulted in significant improvements to the city’s safety and environment.

Several GU civil engineering senior design classes, led by Associate Professor Sue Niezgoda in collaboration with the city of Spokane, contributed to environmentally sustainable solutions for the street’s stormwater management. Those solutions include porous asphalt and concrete roadway sections and bio-retention swales in the center of the avenue that will filter and treat stormwater before it reaches the Spokane River and the region’s estimated 10-trillion-gallon aquifer.

Sharp Avenue construction. GU photo by Zack Berlat
The newly opened and redesigned Sharp Avenue at Gonzaga's main entrance. GU photo by Zack Berlat
The $2 million project is expected to slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety through one of the highest-use areas for pedestrians in the city. In addition to new lanes added for bicyclists, new bump-outs at crosswalks will provide narrower crossings for pedestrians.

“Our thanks also to the Gonzaga engineering program and its students who helped to make this project better,” said Mayor Condon, adding the project is about “enhanced connections,” protecting the Spokane River and the aquifer, and making the community safer for Gonzaga students and Logan neighbors.

“This work is ultimately about our multimillion investment to protect the health of the Spokane River. Capturing and treating stormwater on site keeps pollution from reaching the river,” Condon said. “We call it our Link initiative — putting together various infrastructure improvements to get the greatest value for our citizens and the greatest value for our river.”

The improvements to the roadway will benefit residents and the region in many ways, President McCulloh said, noting it will also allow Gonzaga to continue to learn more about the considerable environmental improvements it will bring and how to better help pedestrians and drivers achieve even greater safety.

“It does truly represent just one more significant improvement that this city is relentlessly pursuing as it seeks to improve this community and the welfare of all of its citizens,” President McCulloh said, thanking Mayor Condon, the City Council, state representatives, and others including Logan Neighborhood residents.

Construction began June 11 on Sharp Avenue from just east of Ruby Street to Hamilton Street. In addition to new pavement, landscaping and beautification, the initiative is a pilot project to test stormwater management and treatment techniques. The city worked with Gonzaga engineering students on preliminary design work related to stormwater.

In addition to the porous asphalt in travel-lane sections and porous concrete in some parking-stall locations, an inverted landscaped crown allows water to drain to the middle of the street rather than the edges. The project also includes monitoring stations for the city to measure how much stormwater is captured and to assess the effectiveness of various techniques and mediums at cleaning pollutants.

“The results of this collaboration improved the design and implementation of the Sharp Avenue roadway improvement project and also proved to be a valuable real-world learning experience involving research and design for all the undergraduate students involved at GU, thus acting to better prepare them for their professional lives after graduation,” Niezgoda said.

Other Gonzaga faculty involved in the project were civil engineering professors Mark Muszynski, Noel Bormann, Aimee Navickis-Brasch, and chemistry Professor David Cleary.