The Spokane Valley City Council lobbied Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for help obtaining the final $4 million needed to replace the failing west Sullivan Road bridge over the Spokane River during a special meeting Thursday morning.
“It’s basically the economic artery of our city,” said Councilman Dean Grafos. “We’re about $4 million short. Maybe you can use your influence with our state representatives.”
The city has amassed $13.5 million in state and federal grants to pay for the estimated $19.7 million project. The city has also committed $2.3 million of its own money for the project. Temporary repairs were made to the bridge last year in order to remove weight limits that had been imposed because of the bridge’s poor condition.
“This bridge is not a want, it’s a need,” Grafos said. “We’re here to ask for your support.”
Councilman Ben Wick said the city has received a $3.5 million Transportation Improvement Board grant for the project, but must break ground on a new bridge this year or give the money back. “It’s kind of crunch time,” he said.
As of now, the project is not included in the state budget.
McMorris Rodgers expressed her support for the bridge replacement. “I can certainly touch base with the legislators and get a better sense of where this is,” she said. “I’ll see what I can do to help.”
The council also made a pitch for funding for the Bridging the Valley project, an effort to construct overpasses or underpasses at railroad crossings on arterials. The city received a $10 million grant for an overpass on Barker Road a few years ago, said Mayor Tom Towey. “Over the years it’s gotten put on the back burner,” he said.
The city is interested in moving the project back to front and center once the Sullivan Bridge is done, he said. “It’s going to impact our citizens a great deal if the coal trains do materialize,” he said. “It’s a concern of ours.”
The Barker overpass is the city’s first priority in the Bridging the Valley project, Wick said. “We have had a lot of accidents and serious accidents there,” he said.
Barker would qualify as a freight corridor and there is money available for those kinds of projects right now, McMorris Rodgers said. “I think your timing would be good,” she said.
The overpass has been partially designed and the environmental impact statement is done. “We’d appreciate any help,” Wick said. “We know money is tight.”
The council also asked McMorris Rodgers to support the continuation of Community Development Block Grants. “That block grant money is used very efficiently,” said Councilman Arne Woodard.
McMorris Rodgers praised Spokane Valley as fiscally responsible and a “tremendous” example to others. She urged council members to let her know how federal programs and services are working or not working for the city. She acknowledged that the government has some difficult budgeting decisions coming up. “There are a lot of demands on the federal government,” she said. “You have to make some tough decisions at times and you can’t say yes to everyone.”
Towey closed the meeting by presenting a key to the city to McMorris Rodgers.
After the meeting ended McMorris Rodgers said she asked for the meeting with the council as a way to keep informed about how cities in her district are doing. She’s planning similar meetings at other cities including Spokane, Airway Heights and Medical Lake.
“There’s no big agenda, just to keep the lines of communication open,” she said.