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Cooperation the key to corridor

If Spokane wants the money to complete the North Spokane Corridor freeway project, local governments and businesses had better get on the same page.

That was the not-so-subtle message last week at a meeting of Spokane politicians, transportation officials and business leaders arranged by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Wash., at Washington State University’s Spokane campus.

The group gathered to listen to James Kuntz, executive director of the Port of Walla Walla and linchpin in that community’s successful effort to win funding to widen U.S. Highway 12 to four lanes between Walla Walla and Burbank, Wash.

The community formed the U.S. Highway 12 Coalition and persuaded cities, Walla Walla County and businesses all to pitch the $188 million widening project as their top priority in Washington, D.C., and at home when state and federal lawmakers came calling.

“There was an agreement that U.S. Highway 12 was our No. 1 transportation priority,” Kuntz said. “Nobody goes in and sandbags.”

A lobbyist in Washington, D.C., sells the highway when locals aren’t there.

Kuntz said the lobbyist – along with marketing, manageable and affordable project segments, the aforementioned single voice and giving senators and representatives public credit for funding – all have been keys to the coalition’s winning ways.

“The Highway 12 thing had been talked about for decades, and no one did anything, and no one took responsibility,” he said.

Sound familiar? The North Spokane Corridor is funded from Wandermere to Francis, but after that, who knows when the rest will be finished?

Nodding heads greeted Kuntz’s question about whether different Spokane-area municipalities are pushing differing priorities.

A fledgling Spokane group is hoping to change that and bottle the Walla Walla effort to apply it to the North Spokane Corridor, said Dale Stedman, with the Spokane Good Roads Association.

“We have a slightly larger nut to crack,” said Stedman of the $1 billion-plus projected cost of the corridor.

Stedman said it’s premature to divulge who has agreed to join Build North Spokane Freeway Now, but he said the group plans to launch with a bang.

I-90 detour, take 2

The Idaho Transportation Department will again this week detour I-90 traffic around the Government Way bridge replacement project.

The nighttime detours begin on Wednesday and continue through Friday. Each starts at 8 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m.

Westbound traffic will stay on the freeway but will be reduced to one lane. Eastbound traffic must exit at the U.S. 95 interchange, take Appleway, then re-enter the freeway at the Fourth Street interchange.

Friends in high places

Guess Spokane wants the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships real bad – badly enough to close a downtown street for four hours to make way for a half-hour red-carpet rally.

Post Street will be shut down today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to roll out the carpet and set up a band and balloons.

That’s the kind of internal celebration some drivers have when they find a parking spot.

Slow going

In Spokane, the intersection of 29th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard is reduced to one lane in each direction as crews work on replacing a water main. That project is supposed to finish by early this week before a new street project begins there on April 10.

Sunset Boulevard is closed at Third Avenue and detoured via Fourth Avenue, and Inland Empire Way is closed and detoured via Sixth and Seventh avenues for Spokane’s westside water main project.

Freya may be restricted to one lane at times between Hartson and 31st for power pole work. The same goes for Crestline between Francis and Lincoln.

In Spokane Valley, Flora Road is closed from Montgomery to Mission.

Valleyway is closed during the day from Conklin to Sullivan.

In Idaho, Prairie Avenue remains under construction between Ramsey and Huetter.

The Government Way Bridge is closed to traffic.

A short detour is in place at the Seltice Way Bridge west of Northwest Boulevard.