OLYMPIA – The North Spokane corridor is among the beneficiaries of the Legislature’s latest bid to boost gas taxes and other fees.
The long-running road construction project – sometimes called the North-South Freeway – is one of five designated statewide “impact” projects in the Connecting Washington package proposed Wednesday by House Democrats, and the only one in the Spokane area.
The money would be used to extend the corridor across the Spokane River and bring it closer to the Interstate 90 interchange.
Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, said the price of gasoline fluctuates as much as 15 cents from one week to the next, so consumers might be willing to accept a tax increase of 2 cents per year.
One critic of the plan, John Adams, of Anacortes, said the tax hike would “devastate” Spokane gas stations because drivers would go to Idaho for cheaper fuel.
At the end of five years, the total federal and state gasoline tax in Washington would be almost 66 cents per gallon.
There are no estimates on how the higher prices would affect demand, and supporters of the plan said they didn’t think the increase would prompt residents of border communities like Spokane or Vancouver to drive across state lines for cheaper gas. Right now, the gas tax is 12.5 cents less in Idaho and 6.5 cents less in Oregon.
Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said the community has rallied around the corridor project and might accept the tax increases in exchange for extending that project and improving other roads.
“The average person in Spokane is spending less time on the road,” he said.