Population growth and an expanding economy are expected to bring a 37 percent increase in vehicle travel in the Spokane area by 2040.
In the same time, demand for transit will rise 27 percent, said Kevin Wallace, executive director of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.
Wallace said he’s not sure how Spokane is going to pay for needed investments to keep up with demand.
His comments before the Spokane County commissioners last week came as the transportation council released a draft of a new metropolitan transportation plan through 2040.
The public will get its chance to comment on the draft in public meetings in coming months. A public comment period starts on Friday and will be open nearly two months. Two public meetings are planned for early November.
Traffic congestion is a common problem in most urban and suburban areas across the country, Wallace said, but Spokane has avoided that problem over the years.
Here the problem will be having enough money to maintain the existing system of streets, highways and bridges. Forty-five percent of the Spokane area’s main arterials are in poor condition, Wallace said.
Maintenance will cost an estimated $3.9 billion out of about $10.9 billion that will be available through 2040 for transportation spending. Although that total sounds like a lot, consider the fact that completing the North Spokane Corridor from Francis Avenue to Interstate 90 will cost in excess of $1 billion.
In addition, state transportation officials want to widen I-90 to six lanes from Barker Road to Stateline; improve the Medical Lake interchange at I-90 to better handle freight; widen Highway 904 from I-90 to Cheney to four lanes; upgrade U.S. Highway 195 south of I-90; and rebuild the Harvard Road/Liberty Lake interchange on I-90.
Making up for future shortages in funding will increasingly be the responsibility of local governments, County Commissioner Todd Mielke said. Gasoline tax receipts are declining along with the number of miles driven each year.
The plan forecasts that a third of $10.9 billion in Spokane County’s transportation funding will have to come from the local level.
While the NSC is considered the region’s top priority for transportation, planners are also looking at the need for an expanded transit network with improved service on major routes; freight corridors; and improving urban transportation corridors such as Sprague Avenue and Grand Boulevard, and Division and Monroe streets.
“It’s pretty clear state and federal funds will be limited in the future,” Wallace said.
He also said SRTC has yet to consider the trend by those in their upper teens and 20s to use transit and vehicle-sharing services rather than owning their own vehicles.
Free meters today
Good news for people coming downtown today. Parking meters don’t have to be fed in honor of the Columbus Day holiday.
Wider I-90 opens
WSDOT held a special ribbon-cutting last Wednesday for opening the first three miles of a widened I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.
More than 1 million cubic yards of rock were moved to make way for the six-lane freeway in the first phase of a project to improve 15 miles of freeway near Keechelus Lake through 2017. The first phase is costing $551 million.
In Spokane, crews will work on a southbound lane of the Maple Street Bridge starting Tuesday at 9 a.m.
On Wednesday, the city is closing Fourth Avenue from Lincoln to Wall streets for crane work on private property.
Stevens Street from Main to Riverside avenues will have two lanes closed for utility work today.
Twenty-second Avenue from Thor to Freya streets will be closed today through Oct. 24 because of a Habitat for Humanity project. Access will be maintained for residents living there.
A new concrete intersection on Spokane Falls Boulevard east of Division Street is forcing closure of the boulevard through Oct. 24.
Rehabilitation of Crestline Street from 37th to 57th avenues is nearly complete, with final paving under way.
Installation of a 1 million-gallon tank to hold combined sewage and stormwater will force lane restrictions on southbound Ray Street on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. between 19th and 22nd avenues.
• In northeast Spokane County, work was being completed last week on a repaving project that had closed Bruce Road between Stoneman and Day-Mount Spokane Road in recent months. The road will close again next year for replacement of the bridge over Deadman Creek.
• U.S. Highway 2 in the vicinity of Deer Heights Road is going to be reduced to a single lane of traffic tonight through Wednesday from 7 p.m. to about 6 a.m. each night for installation of a water line. In addition, access to Deer Heights Road will be limited.