November 1, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: Make your voice heard on county’s transit plan

 

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:

Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington lawmakers may be near agreement on a transportation package that could be enacted by a special session of the Legislature. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Spokane County drivers, cyclists, walkers and bus riders have two more weeks to comment on a transportation plan much closer to home, and more doable with the money at hand, or what can be anticipated without recourse to new revenues.

It’s not all about the North Spokane Corridor. In fact, completion of that project at a cost of $1.3 billion represents less than 12 percent of the projected $10.9 billion worth of the funding for capacity-building, maintenance and transit operation recommended by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

Other major road projects listed in the council’s Horizon 2040 plan include widening Bigelow Gulch and Forker roads from the Spokane city line to Sullivan Street in Spokane Valley, modifying or replacing six Interstate 90 interchanges, and a Barker Road overpass of the BNSF Railway tracks. State Route 904 would be widened from I-90 to Cheney.

An electrified trolley line running from Browne’s Addition to Spokane Community College would transform urban transportation.

Spokane County’s population is expected to increase 35 percent over the next 27 years, further stressing roads with all-too-evident wear. Commuters – almost one-quarter of those working in the county live elsewhere – fray the pavement still more.

So despite its scale, Horizon 2040 does not do everything that will need doing. As the plan itself says: “The projected revenues do not fund road and bridge maintenance and preservation at a state of good repair.”

Only one-third of $1.9 billion in bridge-related costs are covered, for example.

But, at about 200 pages, Horizon 2040 is probably the most thorough analysis of Spokane-area transportation assets and gaps done in a very long time. Federal officials, who use these local plans to help set investment priorities, said earlier versions were unsatisfactory.

By working with those same officials, spokeswoman Staci Lehman said, the council came up with a document now being used as an example of how to do the job right. But a plan is just a plan.

After the close of public comment, the council will fine-tune its work in December. Then, as Liberty Lake Mayor and Council Chairman Steve Peterson puts it, the transportation agencies will start working the plan; scoring proposed projects against Horizon 2040 priorities to determine which get funded, and which may not.

The pressure will be on to separate the parochial project from the regional, the wanted from the needed, and those that address the mass transit needs of the young and the elderly.

Although the council will continue to update the plan periodically, Horizon 2040 will likely be the starting point for years to come. We encourage readers to examine the document at www.srtc.org, which also features a helpful seven-minute video.

Transportation improvements will be critical to Spokane’s economic development. Planning and funding are headed down a new road. Find out where we’re going.


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