Forty-six years after a north Spokane freeway was proposed, an overwhelming majority of county residents still hope it will be built, according to a recent survey.
Asked whether a freeway linking Interstate 90 with the North Side should be built, 83 percent of 400 people said yes. Their reasons ranged from easing congestion and pollution to providing a safer, faster route through town.
But while the respondents were given a description of the freeway’s proposed route through Hillyard, they were not told it would displace 400 houses and 110 businesses.
Nor were they told it would cost $2.1 billion and take 20 years to complete.
Commissioned by the state Department of Transportation, the survey was conducted earlier this month by Robinson Research Inc. of Spokane. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
“The survey was what it was,” said pollster Bill Robinson. “It was a survey of perceptions about whether it (the freeway) would benefit the community … irrespective of its cost.
“It’s hard for the general public to grasp figures that large.”
The results are nothing new. Surveys conducted by various groups in 1973, 1983, 1986 and 1987 all showed at least 80 percent support for the freeway.
In fact, respondents wanted a freeway more than they wanted a new arena or trash incinerator - projects that have been built while freeway plans have languished.
First proposed in 1951, the freeway came close to being built in 1956 at a cost of about $13 million. It was stopped by opposition from East Central residents who said it would split their neighborhood.
Fifty-eight percent of voters supported the freeway when it was put on the ballot in 1973. But again the project was shelved for lack of funding. There was a short-lived attempt to resurrect it in 1987.
In 1995, the transportation department completed a $3 million study for a freeway that would run just east of Market Street, then angle northwest to intersect U.S. Highway 2 and continue to state Highway 395.
Current funding falls far short of what’s needed.
A transportation budget being considered by the state Senate would include money to design the section of the freeway between Highway 2 and Highway 395, said Al Gilson, a transportation department spokesman in Spokane.
The federal government might chip in more if the proposed freeway is declared part of the national highway system, he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Community supports a north/south freeway
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