The city of Liberty Lake, the Central Valley School District and the Spokane Valley Fire Department have banded together to hire a state lobbyist with one goal in mind – build a Henry Road overpass over Interstate 90 in Liberty Lake.
The city received state approval for the project in 2015, said Mayor Steve Peterson. “We got the OK to put the road in, but the funding won’t be available until 2029. From our perspective, that doesn’t really work.”
The extended road and overpass would provide a new connection to the growing River District immediately to the north of I-90. “The growth is kind of exponential,” Peterson said.
The school district is building a new middle school there and has plans to build a new high school on the south side of I-90. Meanwhile, the fire department built its new Liberty Lake station near Henry Road specifically because the road would be extended over the freeway in the future, said Fire Chief Bryan Collins. When the project is complete it will allow fire crews quicker access to the River District.
Peterson suggested the three work together to attempt to get the project moved up and the respective boards agreed. The three are splitting the $24,000 to pay for a lobbyist for the next year.
“It just seemed like a smart thing to be involved in,” Collins said. “It wasn’t tremendously expensive.”
The trio has been pushing the road project during infrequent visits to Olympia and in meetings with local legislators.
“We don’t have the frequency,” said Peterson. “If something happens at 7 o’clock at night you have to be there.”
Presenting a united front could also help sway some legislators toward moving up the project, Collins said. “If you’re there and actually present, they pay attention to you,” he said. “When you have three separate entities all pulling for the same goal, that says a lot.”
Their message is that an overpass helps improve connectivity, public safety and economic growth, said Peterson. “We created an excellent package to bring to the legislature to move this forward,” he said.
The city also has other road projects the lobbyist will push for. Peterson would like to see another northbound lane on the Harvard Road overpass, which shrinks from two lanes to one immediately before the overpass and traffic is often backed up. A second lane would add a right turn only lane for traffic getting onto westbound I-90.
The city would also like to see improvements to the Harvard Road/I-90 interchange. Traffic going north on Harvard to get on westbound I-90 has a very short merge lane and there have been accidents there, Peterson said.
Those projects appeal to the fire department as well because they reduce congestion and provide quicker access for fire crews, Collins said. “Congestion is not our friend in terms of medical response and fire response,” he said. “That’s time to me. Time is brain cells, it’s heart cells, it’s fire growth.”
The contract with Jennifer Ziegler Public Relations Consulting will be evaluated at the end of the contract year and the three entities will decide whether or not to continue it.
“We’re all in this together,” Peterson said. “This is truly a partnership of us working together. When we do that we speak with a much greater voice.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter