To the students, faculty and staff who braved the reconstruction of Sharp Avenue in fall 2018, congratulations—you’ve enjoyed one full year of the finished product after a long season of construction.  This Saturday celebrates the one-year anniversary of the completion of Sharp Avenue.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to the disruption of the reconstruction of Sharp last fall. The reconstruction of a main passage way for transportation proved a challenge for students living on the opposite side of the road of campus in the Logan Neighborhood.

Senior Carla Boyle lived in Corkery Apartments her sophomore year and across Sharp Avenue from Gonzaga her junior and senior years. This means Boyle has commuted across Sharp to get to school in all three of its phases.

“The construction last year was a bit of a ­pain, just because it forced all the traffic up onto Mission Avenue and Indiana Avenue, so it took longer to get somewhere in car,” Boyle said. “I couldn’t easily bike to school and I would get muddy when it rained.”

The project was designed to reduce Sharp from a four-lane road to a two-lane road, while also adding bump outs to provide safer crossways for pedestrians. It also added bike lanes and wider medians.  

Even though maneuvering around the construction made getting to school a rather unappealing adventure, Boyle said she is satisfied with the investment.

“There is more street parking, and the road itself is much nicer because of all the water absorption engineering put into it,” she said. “Even if the loss of the two lanes makes the road a little slower, I think the safety features for both drivers and students is well worth it.”

“The new design promotes slower traffic through narrower lanes and a more ‘neighborhood’ feel to the road and sends a visual message that drivers should travel slower,” said Rhonda Young, chair and professor in the department of civil engineering who is a transportation engineer. “The volume of the road did not require a four-lane road, so now the lane configuration matches the need and sets an appropriate tone.” However, the project goes beyond the need for safety along Sharp.

Sue Niezgoda, a professor of civil engineering, worked on the project as a principal investigator.

“This project looked at determining the feasibility of repaving an arterial street in cold climate with permeable pavement and also designed the monitoring system that would be operated by the city to determine the effectiveness of the permeable pavement at infiltrating and treating stormwater,” she said. 

Sharp Avenue’s need for repair provided the opportunity to promote infiltration and improve water quality.

Today, Sharp utilizes three different types of infiltration methods — grass swales (the grassy medians), porous asphalt and pervious concrete. Within the limits of the project, Pearl Street to Hamilton Street, there are four monitoring stations plotted that test which tool best treats and manages the stormwater.

“The use of permeable pavement is still a rather novel approach to managing rain events and the resulting run-off water,” said Mark Muszynski, an associate professor of civil engineering and one of many GU members who teamed up with the city to test the limits on permeable pavements and Sharp Avenue.

“As far as I know we are the first to actually put it out on traveled roadway where cars are driving on it every day all day, so we’re kind of pioneers in that way,” said Mark Papich, senior engineer in the city's Integrated Capital Management program.

While the road today is completed, it will take years before the city can conclude the project is sustainable and effective.

“We need this to be in decent shape in at least 15 years. So, we’re just getting out of the gate,” Papich said.

The street affects primarily GU students and commuters of the Logan Neighborhood, but the project intersected with the students’ education in more ways than just the commute to school.

Niezgoda said that the project started in summer 2014 with the hiring of six GU civil engineering students and one chemistry student to complete the feasibility study for the city. After a summer of intensive research, review, discussion and reports, the students presented a report to the city that helped to guide it in its design of the permeable pavement for Sharp Avenue.

Following the summer work, two teams of civil engineering seniors dedicated their senior design projects to Sharp Avenue's remodel, and successfully produced a monitoring system that was presented to the city and included in the final Sharp Avenue design and construction plans.

“This was a valuable connection between myself, my students and the city,” Niezgoda said. “Although timelines for work can be very different and challenging between academia and the practice, I found my collaboration with the city to be extremely beneficial for my students in learning how to complete a real-world design project.”

So, while there is more than meets the eye in determining the results of Sharp Avenue, at least we can celebrate that a year ago marked the end of a four-year collaboration between GU students and Spokane. 

Not only did the project lay down a safe and sustainable road, but the reconstruction of Sharp Avenue paved the way for students to lead a novelty and never-been-done-before project in traffic construction.

Brooklyn Popp is a staff writer. 

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