September 30, 2013 in City

Washington Senate tour lets public share transportation priorities

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

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Completing the North Spokane Corridor from Francis Avenue to Interstate 90 remains a top priority for local elected leaders seeking state funding for the project.

On Wednesday, two state senators will bring a statewide transportation listening tour to Spokane Valley to hear what improvements residents want, and elected officials said that includes the new freeway’s completion.

The forum will be from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Central Valley High School theater, 821 S. Sullivan Road.

Hundreds of people turned out at forums earlier this month in Everett and Bellevue.

Sens. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, are leading the tour as co-chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee.

They will review a series of 10 reform proposals backed by the Senate majority caucus.

The ultimate goal of lawmakers is to come up with a package of savings and revenue shifts that will help finance new transportation projects in coming years in conjunction with possible tax and fee increases.

“This is our shot to fully fund the North Spokane Corridor,” said state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane. He said the current price tag for completion is $750 million.

Spokane County Commissioner Al French said county officials are pushing for legislation that will give local governments options for new taxes or fees for local roads and bridges.

Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, said the lawmakers need to listen carefully to the public, or any effort to increase taxes will fail and result in a setback for transportation statewide. “We could poison the well for years to come” if the package is not well-conceived, he said.

The listening tour stems from the failure last spring of a legislative transportation package that included new taxes.

Senate majority caucus members want savings through reforms before they will support any tax increases.

One reform involves shifting sales tax revenue paid by contractors on transportation projects from the state’s general fund to the transportation fund. However, that would put additional budget pressure on state spending for education and other services.

Another idea is to tap stormwater treatment funding to pay for stormwater elements of transportation projects. Streamlined environmental permitting is also being proposed in the reforms.

Trucks prohibited on Harvard Road

Spokane County commissioners earlier this month voted to prohibit freight truck traffic on Harvard Road north of I-90 because of deterioration of the road surface, French said.

He said the decision was tough because the route is a connector between I-90 and Trent Avenue, which is a state highway between Spokane and the Idaho state line.

But without truck restrictions, he said, “residents would be driving on dirt” eventually.

Weekend backups expected on I-90

The slowdown this fall on I-90 west of Ellensburg is the result of bridge work in the upper Yakima River Valley, which has forced traffic to funnel into a single lane in each direction through the construction area.

State officials said backups will most likely happen on weekends, when traffic increases. As a result, weekend travelers should allow extra time – as much as two hours – when going through that area westbound between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

On Sundays, eastbound traffic will likely be slowed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Those estimates are based on typical traffic volumes.

The work near Easton is expected to continue through mid-October.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges drivers to plan ahead by leaving early, coordinating carpools or taking a different route to avoid delays.

On Friday afternoon, westbound traffic was delayed by about 25 minutes.

In addition to the bridge work, construction workers are closing I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass for rock blasting for at least an hour at 6 p.m. today through Thursday.

For the latest information on traffic and slowdowns, go to wsdot.com/traffic and click on Snoqualmie.

Traffic change due for East Sprague

A major traffic revision is taking place on East Sprague Avenue from Grant to Cook streets.

To make that section of Sprague better for pedestrians, the city is changing Sprague from a four-lane street to a two-lane street with a center turn lane.

The $150,000 revision is being funded with a combination of red-light photo fines and federal community development money.

City Councilwoman Amber Waldref said in a news release, “This is a great way to use red light money to make shopping and parking safer with larger parking areas and driving in general safer with a center turn lane in place.”

Other updates

• Also in Spokane, residents are invited to a transportation planning open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 8 at Spokane Falls Community College, 3410 W. Fort Wright Drive, in the Student Union Building. The city is updating its 20-year transportation plan and will seek to fold in pedestrian, transit, freight and bicycle uses. In addition, new stormwater treatment facilities along city streets will be part of the plan.

• Work begins Tuesday to repair joints on the Washington Street Bridge over the Spokane River, which will result in lane closures from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through Friday. The Greene Street Bridge has lane restrictions as well through mid-October for work to increase the bridge’s loading capacity with installation of a fiber-reinforced polymer to the bridge deck and beams. Conduit is also being installed.

• A new stormwater tank is being installed along Ray Street at 21st Avenue in a $5 million project. Southbound traffic is being reduced to a single lane through the project area.

• In Spokane Valley, Adams Road from Trent to Wellesley avenues will be closed until the end of October for sidewalk improvements.

• Carnahan Road from Eighth to 16th avenues is closed for repaving through Thursday.

• Indiana Avenue between Pines Road and Mirabeau Parkway is reduced to one lane in each direction until mid-October for resurfacing.

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