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DOT begins to buy land near I-90

Thu., July 12, 2007

The state Department of Transportation has started making offers on residential property along Interstate 90 as part of a long-range plan to widen the freeway through the East Central neighborhood and connect it to a new north-south freeway.

At least 150 parcels are being sought in the initial round of purchases.

Eventually, the state plans to complete a limited-access freeway link between U.S. Highway 395 at Wandermere and a widened I-90 through the East Central neighborhood.

The freeway project already has or will force relocation and buyouts of 570 residences and 110 businesses. Of the homes, 15 historic buildings are being made eligible for moving, transportation officials said.

The public got a close-up look at details of the project during an open house at the East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone St., two weeks ago.

Larry Larson, project engineer, said the state has been working closely with the neighborhood in developing plans for right-of-way acquisition and construction.

He said neighborhood leaders want the state to buy property in contiguous blocks. “They asked us not to do this in a hodgepodge way,” Larson said.

Cost of the project is estimated at $2 billion in today’s money but could rise to $3.3 billion as work progresses over the next 20 years.

The pace of construction hinges on legislative funding. Even if all the needed money were available now, it would take the state seven years to finish the job.

The state has funding budgeted for eight construction contracts that will result in completion of the first drivable link of what engineers call the U.S. 395/North Spokane Corridor.

Under the current schedule, the state could open a limited-access two-lane segment from an interchange near Francis Avenue and Freya Street to another interchange at Farwell Road and U.S. Highway 2 in 2009.

Two years later, the two-lane highway would be extended to an interchange at Wandermere.

The highway would have a 60 mph speed limit.

Larson said a two-lane route is being constructed initially because traffic projections show that a four-lane highway won’t be needed until the full project is completed southward to I-90.

Funding is coming from a 2003 gasoline tax increase.

In the East Central neighborhood, a new system of access lanes will be built alongside I-90 to regulate traffic movement through various interchanges. Access to the freeway will be from Hamilton Street, Second Avenue and Third Avenue at the western end of the neighborhood; Thor and Freya streets near the midpoint of the project; and Sprague Avenue, Fancher Road and Appleway at the eastern end.

The freeway and system of collector streets are expected to be a dozen lanes wide or more at some points in the East Central neighborhood.

Sound-barrier walls as tall as 14 feet are planned along residential areas.

Kathy Scacco and Cathy Gunderson, of the Chief Garry Park neighborhood, said they believe the new freeway will reduce the volume of traffic in the Freya and Greene street corridor. “It will quiet down the neighborhood,” Gunderson said.

Leaders in the East Central neighborhood have won zoning changes to create more business property so that displaced businesses will be able to relocate within the East Central or Garry Park neighborhoods.

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