It’s 3.7 miles of two-lane concrete, running from Francis Avenue north to Farwell Road.
For Spokane, that’s reason to celebrate.
The first leg of the long-dreamed of North Spokane freeway opens Saturday with special events and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
It may seem like a lot of hoopla for small stretch of road, but it’s a significant step considering the 50-year history of the project to connect Interstate 90 to U.S. Highway 395 at Wandermere 10.5 miles north. The ceremony comes eight years to the day after groundbreaking in 2001.
In 2011, the lanes will be opened from Farwell to Wandermere.
Saturday’s festivities will occur where the freeway crosses Market Street near Hawthorne Road. People attending will have to take a shuttle bus from Mead High School at 302 W. Hastings Road.
“This is a big deal. We need to celebrate,” said Molly Myers of the Spokane Transit Authority, which is providing the shuttle service beginning at 6 a.m.
Community organizations are teaming up with the state Department of Transportation for the event.
The Lilac City Volkssport Association will host a walk along the route from 6 a.m. to noon. Nonmembers are free to join.
Local bike enthusiasts through the Bike to Work organization are planning to ride a new trail that meanders alongside the freeway. That event starts at 8:30 a.m. To join the ride, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Friday.
The Dukes Auto Club of Spokane will have classic cars on display at 10:30 a.m. with a parade of the cars at 2 p.m. after the ribbon is cut.
The Associated General Contractors will have heavy equipment to show off, as well as front loader buckets filled with bottled water on ice. Trade unions involved in construction will have hot dogs for about 1,000 guests.
Other giveaways are planned, as well as children’s activities.
“This is an entire community that’s come together,” said Wayne Brokaw, the AGC executive director. His organization hopes to use the event as a springboard for lobbying for funds to complete the project, he said.
The state has already spent about $530 million, which includes acquisition of land. Another $1.6 billion is needed to complete the project.
The idea surfaced in the mid-1950s, with a cost estimate of $13 million. That swelled to $75 million by the mid-70s when the freeway was shelved over lack of state funds and public opposition.
The new lanes should be opened to traffic by Saturday evening. Access is from a traffic signal on Farwell Road or a roundabout on Freya Street just north of Francis.