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North-south freeway worth funding, lawmaker says

The federal government should provide more money to help build the North Spokane Corridor, a high-ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee told local leaders Wednesday in Spokane.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said the federal contribution to the roadway – which has been long-discussed but only recently under construction – is “a little embarrassing.” The federal government has chipped in about $18 million, compared to more than $500 million in state and local money.

“You’re stepping up to the plate. We should be able to share the burden,” Mica said after touring the route of the corridor, sometimes called the north-south freeway, by air with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican who’s running for re-election this fall in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District.

Mica is the ranking Republican on the transportation committee, which expects to develop a five-year plan for roads, bridges and other infrastructure next year. It could be a $1.5 trillion blueprint for national transportation spending, he said, but it can’t be a way to just bring good projects to the districts of key committee members.

“We’ll have to look at it as a national strategic effort,” Mica said.

Local business and government leaders told him the proposed 10-mile roadway could help move freight from Canada to Mexico and take some congestion off Interstate 5. The state expects to open a section between Francis and Farwell to some traffic in 2009.

“We’re not going to make it … as a region until we get that corridor finished,” said Rich Hadley, president of Greater Spokane Inc.

While Mica was supportive of the corridor, he said he needed more information on some of the other big transportation projects in Eastern Washington, including an expansion of Highway 12 between Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities, railroad overpasses in the Spokane Valley and bridge repairs on the Pend Oreille River.