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Airway Heights Makes Transition From Small Town To Growing City

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Airway Heights is experiencing growing pains. The Spokane suburb now has about 10-thousand residents, a growing economic base and new houses going up. But it also has a busy highway bisecting it and no real civic center.

It is still, in some ways, that place people drive through to get to Fairchild Air Force Base.

But Heather Trautman says it has also become a town where people come and plant roots. Trautman is the principal planner for the city of Airway Heights.

“More and more of this community sees themselves as a small town with all the wonderful aspects of being in a smaller community with parks, easy access to their daily needs, easy access to transportation in order to get to work,” she said.

Those are amenities that Airway Heights is working to develop. One challenge is how do you make a place whose existence depends on car traffic, often at high speeds, safe enough for people to walk around. Trautman and her staff are working on that, as explained by a video on the city's website.

"They’ll slow traffic on Highway 2. People can still move through town efficiently, but it might take 30 seconds longer. It’ll improve safety, making it easier to cross the highway for pedestrians and cyclists. It’ll create an attractive street environment with landscaping, trees, opportunities for public art. And it’ll introduce housing into this part of town, bringing more people into this area, making the sidewalks busier and helping local businesses succeed.”

Last month, the city council approved a new downtown plan. Heather Trautman says it picked an option that will transition a residential street, King Street, into a main downtown thoroughfare. The street runs adjacent to a city park and elementary school. Later this month, Trautman says the city will install temporary traffic tools, such as bike lanes and crosswalks, there.

“We’ll be looking at things like the number of pedestrians and bicyclists using this area before the project and then during the project to see how well it worked. Was it increasing multi-modal access to the park and the school site?” she said.

To prepare for the project, the city is asking people this week to complete a survey on the city’s website.