December 30, 2013 in City

Future Spokane County transportation plans ambitious, underfunded

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

Spokane County’s regional transportation system can expect $10.9 billion in funding through 2040.

But that won’t be enough to pay for all the region’s transportation needs, according to a newly adopted plan.

Completing the North Spokane Corridor from Freya Street to Interstate 90 would cost $1.3 billion in today’s dollars and might not be finished until 2040.

The Spokane Regional Transportation Council earlier this month approved a 2014-2040 metropolitan transportation plan required by the federal government.

“We are calling it our blueprint to how our transportation system will develop in the future,” said Staci Lehman, spokeswoman for the council.

Under federal rules, the plan must be updated every four years.

Members of the council agreed on a policy of not calling for new taxes or fees locally.

However, Spokane Transit Authority is expected to go to voters in coming years to seek an additional 0.3 percent sales tax, in part to build high-performance transit lines. STA collects a 0.6 percent sales tax in its transportation benefit area.

State lawmakers are considering a large transportation package that would likely have a mix of funding sources, including an increase in the gasoline tax.

The state transportation package next year could include funding for the North Spokane Corridor for construction between Freya Street and the Spokane River.

More fuel-efficient vehicles combined with a trend of people driving less have brought increasing constraints on transportation spending.

“Bridge maintenance, preservation and capital (spending) are only funded at $669 million, far short of the current need of $1.9 billion,” the plan says in calling attention to ongoing maintenance issues.

The plan calls for strategies to find a middle ground among construction, operation and road maintenance. Bike and pedestrian improvements are supported along with continued expansion of technology.

The plan adopts the county’s new urban growth boundary as a basis for the plan. However, that growth plan is under legal challenge by the state and neighborhood groups.

The state has said that the county plan puts too much pressure on high-volume corridors such as Interstate 90 without demonstrating there is adequate funding to pay for improvements.

The plan acknowledges that concentrating future growth along transportation corridors has benefits in reducing vehicle miles and hours traveled.

Plans through 2020

Regionally significant projects that would most likely see funding through 2020 would cost an estimated $438 million:

• Riverside Drive extension from Sherman Street to Trent Avenue

• North Indian Trail Road widening from Kathleen Avenue to Barnes Road

• Barker Road overpass over BNSF Railway tracks and state Highway 290

• Bigelow Gulch Road widening to Forker Road

• The first high-performance transit line from Browne’s Addition through Gonzaga University to Spokane Community College

• A West Plains transit center near Interstate 90 and the Medical Lake exit

• Interchange improvements on I-90 at the Medical Lake, Geiger Boulevard, Barker Road and Harvard Road interchanges

• Extension of the North Spokane Corridor to the Spokane River

• Westbound ramp modifications at I-90 and Freya

2021-2030

Projects recommended in the 2021 to 2030 time frame, at an estimated cost of $596 million, include:

• Extension of the North Spokane Corridor south of the Spokane River to Interstate 90 in phases

• Completing the Bigelow Gulch Road extension to Forker and Evergreen roads

• A high-performance transit corridor from Spokane to Liberty Lake

• A railroad underpass at Trent and Pines Road

• Widening state Highway 904 from I-90 to Betz Road

• Passing lanes on U.S. Highway 395 from Half Moon Road to the Stevens County line

• An interchange on I-90 at Henry Road

2031-2040

Projects in the 2031 to 2040 list, costing an estimated $682 million, include:

• Completion of a collector-distributor system for I-90 and the North Spokane Corridor

• An interchange on U.S. Highway 195 at Hatch Road

• A new bridge for Sullivan Road over Trent and BNSF tracks

• Connecting Riverside Drive to Sprague Avenue

• Rehabilitating the Latah Bridge in Spokane


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