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Politicians hail progress on corridor

Democrats, Republicans tout freeway’s value

It may be an election year, but Democrats and Republicans agreed on Tuesday that completion of the northern half of the North Spokane Corridor was a bipartisan accomplishment.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, were joined by Spokane County GOP Commissioner Todd Mielke and state Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. All are running for office this fall.

Each of them spoke at a morning ceremony about the importance of building the 5.7-mile freeway link from the Little Spokane River to Hillyard.

Cantwell and McMorris Rodgers were seated next to each other with Spokane Mayor David Condon, who was elected last year.

Cantwell said she was glad to be there with McMorris Rodgers.

An advocate of improved freight mobility, Cantwell said the new route is saving truckers and other drivers up to 20 minutes as they move across the north side of Spokane.

“It is one of those freight bottlenecks that is going to be fixed,” she said.

McMorris Rodgers picked up on a line being promoted by highway contractors. “We’re here today to say we are going to finish what we started,” she said.

The event was held at the southbound on-ramp for the new Parksmith Road interchange, a project that was financed with money from a federal stimulus program known as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER).

The $35 million grant originally came for construction of the southbound lanes from Farwell Road to Freya Street just north of Francis Avenue.

McMorris Rodgers had voted against the stimulus package in 2009 that brought the money, but noted on Tuesday that the freeway project has now received two TIGER grants. The latest $10 million TIGER grant did not come from the 2009 federal stimulus bill. The congresswoman has worked over the years as a freeway advocate.

The money will pay for realignment of mainline and spur tracks of the BNSF Railway in the vicinity of Francis Avenue and Hillyard, as well as a one-mile extension into Hillyard of a pedestrian and bicycle trail that is part of the future freeway.

Work started Monday on construction of a temporary grade crossing for Francis Avenue at the BNSF tracks. The existing overpass bridge is being removed so that a new, larger one can be built in its place to make room for the freeway and tracks.

Billig, vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said another $50 million is programmed for the 2013 to 2015 budget period for engineering, design, right-of-way purchase and preliminary construction for the freeway segment running through Hillyard toward the Spokane River.

It is estimated that $1.3 billion will be needed to complete the southern five miles of freeway to Interstate 90 and to reconfigure I-90 with new feeder lanes through east Spokane.



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