In Praise of Tunnels

Public works these days is in ill repute. Following the canoe wave with two projects on the bike path near Southway may have been ill-conceived.

All may have been well had the tunnel under Snake River Avenue near Bryden Avenue been completed in only a couple of weeks. But it wasn’t. That gave us more time to consider the cost and possible cost over runs. Public spending is not a popular idea and this looked like another boondoggle.

That tunnel wasn’t well received among the cyclists I know.

“Why do we need that?”

I was careful to withhold judgement. I like Lynn Moss and believe he has contributed a great deal to cycling infrastructre in a hilly community. Will I ever ride through that tunnel? I asked myself. Doubtful was my answer. From the Clarkston side of the river, I do sometimes take the south side path across Southway, swing into the off-ramp on the Lewiston side and cross Snake River Avenue where a break in the guard rail allowed pedestrians and cyclists to take a paved trail down to the bike path.

The first stage of the tunnel project removed that trail and I could not visualize how the tunnel might make that still work for . me.

I’m glad I reserved judgement. The tunnel is finished and access is paved. From the bike path one crosses under the highway and has a choice of turning right up a slight incline to the intersection or turning left and riding the sidewalk up another slight incline to Bryden Avenue.

Two islands with handicap access cuts make it actuallly possible to ride from the sidewalk on the south side of Bryden across the on and off ramps to the south side of Southway Bridge. This amounts to an easier access to the bridge for cyclists than the ramp we all use now on the north side. I’ll use this going both east and west especially if my final destination is to the south of the bridge.

The downside? Well, if you are riding along on Snake River Avenue on your bike, you still do not have access to the bike path. And the north side pedestrian path on the bridge is so seldom used that it remains full of grit and gravel.

I think the tunnel will be used and appreciated in time. Is it worth the cost? Depends upon how you measure the benefits. If you see this as part of the city’s on-going attempt to address pedestrian and bicycle needs, then I think you’ll recognize that the tunnel says Lewiston Supports Alternative Transportation. It is a new message for North Central Idaho. I hope we hear it more often.






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