March 4, 1998 in Nation/World

Funds Included In Budget For Evergreen Interchange Money Would Allow Valley Development To Proceed

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Rep. Mark Sterk added $2 million to a supplemental budget request Tuesday that could help clear the way for large-scale development to resume near the Spokane Valley Mall.

The money would remove one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the delayed construction of the $23.4 million Evergreen Road interchange over Interstate 90 and could pave the way for Spokane County to start purchasing rights of way.

While hardly signaling an end to protracted negotiations over how to pay for the interchange, the $2 million is expected to help bring builders and landowners back to the bargaining table.

“The money will take a bit of the burden off the developers to come forth with all the money,” said Jerry Lenzi, regional administrator for the Department of Transportation. “This may be the encouragement that’s necessary.”

Sterk, a member of the House Transportation Committee, successfully lobbied chairman Karen Schmidt, R-Bainbridge, to add the $2 million to a $118 million supplemental budget request on Tuesday.

Spokane County has imposed a moratorium on big projects near the mall until the interchange is built. The long-awaited project expands Evergreen Road to six lanes north to Indiana, widens Evergreen to five lanes south to Sprague Avenue and includes a bridge spanning 10 lanes of freeway.

The project will be paid for jointly by the state, the county, Hanson Industries and mall developer JP Realty.

While no contracts have been signed, developers verbally have pledged to pay roughly $7.1 million combined. The county planned to ask the state for $4 million, which left the project short about $2.2 million.

The Department of Transportation has been reluctant to set aside the extra money itself, fearing it would take away from other state projects. That would have left developers - at least one of whom hasn’t committed to an exact dollar figure - and the county scrambling to find more money.

“I kept going back to staff and they kept showing me figures and the dollars just didn’t add up,” said Sterk, R-Spokane Valley.

He said he thought the remaining $200,000 shortfall could be absorbed.

Schmidt’s budget request still must be approved by both houses and signed by Gov. Gary Locke. But because Locke, the House and the Senate have proposed some money for the Evergreen project, it’s unlikely the additional cash would be stripped out, Sterk said.

Complicating passage, however, is the fact that Schmidt’s request is linked to the GOP’s $2.4 billion plan to fund additional transportation projects over the next five years.

At least three Republicans, angered that the plan includes a public vote and doesn’t offer a continuous source of revenue such as a gasoline tax increase, have pledged not to vote for the package in the Senate, where the GOP holds a three-seat majority.

Republican leaders, meanwhile, are quietly working to get some Democrats to approve the plan instead.

That extended package includes proposals to fund portions of a handful of Spokane-area road projects.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map: Proposed Evergreen interchange

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

ROADWORK AHEAD

The following highway projects are included in the House Transportation Committee’s budget, which is expected to be sent to the floor later this week:

I-90, Sprague to Argonne - $15.3 million to reconstruct eastbound lanes and add a third lane.

I-90, Pines to Sullivan - $325,000 for planning work to add fifth and sixth lanes.

Highway 195 and Thorpe Road - $5.4 million to remove and reconstruct the intersection.

Route 290, Helena Street - $600,000 to move the alignment of Trent Avenue and the Hamilton Street bridge near the Riverpoint Higher Education Park further out so the campus could expand.

Also: The House budget sets aside about $418,000 for projects designed to improve the transportation of goods through the state, primarily trucking and railroad routes. On a list of 56 projects statewide, seven were from the Spokane area.

- Information provided by Spokane County Assistant Engineer Ross Kelley.

This sidebar appeared with the story: ROADWORK AHEAD The following highway projects are included in the House Transportation Committee’s budget, which is expected to be sent to the floor later this week:

I-90, Sprague to Argonne - $15.3 million to reconstruct eastbound lanes and add a third lane. I-90, Pines to Sullivan - $325,000 for planning work to add fifth and sixth lanes. Highway 195 and Thorpe Road - $5.4 million to remove and reconstruct the intersection. Route 290, Helena Street - $600,000 to move the alignment of Trent Avenue and the Hamilton Street bridge near the Riverpoint Higher Education Park further out so the campus could expand. Also: The House budget sets aside about $418,000 for projects designed to improve the transportation of goods through the state, primarily trucking and railroad routes. On a list of 56 projects statewide, seven were from the Spokane area. - Information provided by Spokane County Assistant Engineer Ross Kelley.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email