A project to improve safety and congestionat Bigelow Gulch and Forker roads is underway after almost 20 years of planning.
The $9.4 million project will straighten and widen a portion of Bigelow Gulch Road by adding two traffic lanes as well as an overpass to eliminate a blind intersection at Bigelow and Forker roads.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held by Spokane County and state officials Tuesday promoting the construction of the interchange.
More than 7,047 vehicles per day travel along Bigelow Gulch Road from Argonne to Forker roads and that number is expected to increase to 13,700 by 2040.
The route from north Spokane to Spokane Valley on Bigelow Gulch starting at Havana south on Forker and Progress Roads to Wellesley Avenue had 283 reports of collisions – including five fatal crashes since 1997, according to county officials.
Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns said the interchange project will help reduce crashes.
“This will not only help what has become a major freight corridor for this region, it will also help remedy some major safety concerns for the region,” Kerns said.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French said the project has a number of aspects making it important to the region and a driver for economic development.
“This is the second highest major freight corridor in Spokane County – second highest to the north Spokane corridor, which is currently under construction,” French said. “This ties the Spokane Industrial Park in the Valley to the northern part of the county and up to our Canadian neighbors.”
Spokane County officials envision Bigelow Gulch Road will remain a major route for freight haulers even after completion of the north-south corridor.
“The economic impact expected to be received by this corridor is fantastic,” French said. “It is a major economic infrastructure element that will move goods, services and freight throughout this region.”
The interchange project is a significant phase in a proposed six-phase plan to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion from the north Spokane corridor stretching to Spokane Valley.
The county has completed two phases of the six-phase urban corridor project: widening Bigelow Gulch Road from Havana Street to Palmer Road and construction of an improved intersection at Argonne Road.
However, the interchange project – which the county has been pursuing since 2000 – had opposition from homeowners in the area. The county approved condemnations for more than 20 properties in 2017 to make room for the project. Residents said the county was not offering them fair market value for their land at the time.
The county in 2010 had its real estate acquisitions shut down after investigations determined county real estate agents violated federal standards, which held up federal grant funds and stalled the project for several years. The county brought in independent consultants that were monitored by state officials to move the project forward.
The Bigelow Gulch-Forker interchange is slated for completion in the fall with all six phases of the corridor project to be completed by 2022.