The calm, the concerned and the curious came to a public hearing Thursday to find out how a 10-mile freeway project would affect them.
They peered at wall-sized neighborhood maps, studied sketches of proposed interchanges, and tried to locate homes or businesses from aerial photographs of the two likely routes for what might someday be a North Spokane freeway.
At a cost of $2 billion, some say the road never will be built, but those who came to Shadle Park High School Thursday night had more tangible concerns.
“The way it looks, they won’t take my house but they might as well. There will be that 45-foot freeway right next to me,” said Ruth Tauscher, 72, peering at the neighborhood around Spokane Community College where she and her husband built their home 42 years ago.
“We’re right here, under the power lines,” said Ivan Correll, 81, pointing to a proposed freeway interchange south of Lincoln Road.
About 150 people came to hear or speak on an analysis of the proposed freeway’s routes and impacts.
There is a combination of four possible alignments. One runs roughly along Greene/Market Street, over the Spokane Community College parking lot and behind Market Street on an abandoned railroad corridor.
The second winds east along Havana then climbs over Minnehaha Park and Esmeralda Golf Course. Both routes also have two options for connecting with U.S. Highway 395 near Wandermere. One goes south of Kaiser’s Mead plant and the other north.
Altogether, more than 600 homes would be lost, with 400 alone in the area where the new freeway would join Interstate 90 between Hamilton and the Sprague interchange.
The plan calls for a wider interstate for those 3.5 miles, doubling in size to accommodate express and merge lanes.
All this is necessary to meet traffic growth in Spokane, according to the draft analysis prepared by the state Department of Transportation.
Estimates by the DOT indicate vehicle trips in Spokane County will increase 50 percent in the next 20 years. North Spokane and the Spokane Valley will see some of the fastest growth: 8,000 more housing units will be built between Highways 2 and 395 alone. The Valley population would swell to 132,721.
The north freeway would be one way residents could get to and from those neighborhoods.
“This project is not a magic bullet that’s going to solve every transportation problem,” said Jerry Lenzi, DOT regional administrator. “It is, however, a pivotal part of any solution.”
Many of those who testified, however, said neither route meets the needs of the community, with a far better solution being a countywide beltway that would allow travelers to bypass downtown altogether.
One Chattaroy man testified that the road is terribly needed to get commuters through Spokane more quickly.
But Pam Edgerton, 31, who lives in northeast Spokane and would be three houses from the Market corridor, said that’s not the answer for those who live in older, close-in neighborhoods who would have to face dust, noise and freeway construction.
“You’d like to see a way to get through Spokane, but you’re not seeing the neighborhoods affected by this.”
Public comments on the draft environmental impact statement for the North Spokane Freeway will be accepted by the DOT until Oct. 27.