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Spokane area could get $125 million or more for transportation projects

UPDATED: Thu., March 30, 2017, 7:36 a.m.

FILE – Construction continues on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, during a press conference at the North Spokane Corridor in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – Construction continues on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, during a press conference at the North Spokane Corridor in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Roads, bridges and transit projects around Spokane County would get about $125 million from state taxpayers over the next two years under similar transportation budgets making their way through the Legislature.

Unlike the contentious state operating budget for 2017-19 that has significantly different spending plans for many programs, the separate House and Senate transportation budgets for the upcoming two-year fiscal cycle are very similar.

The transportation budgets essentially continue spending on major projects approved in 2015 when the state raised its gasoline tax and some other transportation fees, House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said Wednesday. Most of the money is already spoken for.

“It’s not a huge change. It has the projects that have been promised across the state,” Clibborn said before the panel approved its $8.7 billion spending plan on a 23-1 vote and sent it to the full House.

Before adopting the full budget, the committee made a handful of additions, including an amendment from Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, to set aside $300,000 for replacing the deck of the triangle truss bridge in Riverfront Park.

The bridge was built for Expo ‘74 and the money from the state could help leverage dollars from a recent bond issue local citizens approved, Riccelli said.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, supported the amendment, noting it was unusual that “we actually agree on a pedestrian bridge.” That prompted Clibborn to joke the committee should vote quickly while two such politically different lawmakers agreed, and the amendment passed.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved its $8.5 billion budget proposal last week; it’s waiting for a debate in the full Senate.

Both have some $75 million for continued work on the North Spokane Corridor as construction of that major roadway pushes south from Francis Avenue.

Also in both bills:

    $8.5 million for a pedestrian bridge in the University District

    $8.1 for the Central City Line to connect the district with Browne’s Addition.

    $8.1 million for a West Plains Transit Center

    $7.7 million for repaving stretches of U.S. Highway 2, State Route 290 and State Route 904

    $4 million to start work on the Interstate 90/Medical Lake interchange, where another $22.5 million would be spent in 2019-21

    $3.9 million for a 100-stall park-and-ride facility at the south end of the Regal and Monroe transit lines.

    $1.6 million to replace the State Route 290 East Sprague bridge over the Spokane River

Both bills also have $17.5 million for projects that are partly in Spokane and partly in nearby counties. They include $10.1 million for a passing lane on U.S. 195 between Colfax and Spangle, and $6.7 million for rehabilitation of the Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad line.

Having the same projects with the same amount of money in each budget does not guarantee approval, but it does put them in a strong position for the legislative process which will involve debate and votes in each chamber and a need to negotiate differences in each bill. During those negotiations, some things that are in one bill but not the other get dropped.

Along with a request for money for the Riverfront Park bridge approved by the committee Wednesday, the House Transportation bill has an extra $2.1 million for a transit center at Spokane Falls Community College. That project is listed in the Senate budget but has no money set aside for it in the next two years.


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