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OLYMPIA – Legislators began hearings Thursday on competing but similar multi-billion-dollar spending plans for the state’s highways, bridges, ferries and mass transit.
Prepared separately by the House and Senate, the two $8.4 billion transportation budget proposals have many things in common. Described variously as “bare bones” and “Band-Aid” by some Democrats involved in writing the plans, neither calls for big new projects or new taxes.
While they differ on some key elements involving ferries and some West Side projects, both would spend about $75 million between mid 2013 and mid 2015 on state projects in Spokane County.
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OLYMPIA – A proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 2 cents per year for five years and impose or hike other taxes would provide some $420 million for further work on the North Spokane Corridor.
The long-running road construction project – sometimes called the North-South Freeway – is one of five designated statewide “impact” projects in the Connecting Washington package proposed Wednesday by House Democrats, and the only one in the Spokane area. . .
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Break out the giant scissors. We're having a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the North Spokane Corridor.
Make that another ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Today at 11 a.m., the powers that be will be holding a “Celebration of Progress” for the much-discussed roadway, a thoroughfare so deeply ingrained in the Spokane mythos that Mike Lowry once said that the oldest politician was the one who could claim the oldest date when he first made a speech mentioning what was then called the North-South freeway.
The celebration is to mark the opening of the northern half of the corridor. So that would be the North North Spokane Corridor, presumably.
This being an election year, the celebration will include politicians, including Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who disagree on many things, but not on whether the roadway deserves federal money.
It's at 11 a.m., where the corridor intersects with Parksmith Road. For directions, go inside the blog. (One interesting thing to note in the directions: “The event cannot be reached from the North Spokane Corridor. You must use Market Street.)
Let's hope the scissors have been sharpened, because nothing ruins a good photo op like a ribbon that refuses to be cut.
The U.S. Department of Transportation will give the state $10 million for the North Spokane Corridor, to be used to help relocate some railroad tracis and extend a bike trail.
A joint announcement from U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers says the state will get the money from the feds on Friday.
The money is known as a TIGER grant, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. It will be used to relocate 7.5 miles of BNSF rail lines near the Freya Street interchange, and to extend a bike and pedestrian trail for 1 mile into Hillyard.
All three members of Congress described the North Spokane Corridor — also known by some as the North-South Freeway — as a top priority for them and the community.
Democratic state Sen. Chris Marr and his Republican opponent, Michael Baumgartner, debate funding for the North Spokane Corridor in the latest in a series of Spokesman-Review candidates videos.
Both support the freeway’s extension south of Francis Avenue but have different thoughts about paying for it.
So is Spokane shortchanged in transportation funding, as some candidates believe? Does Seattle and the Puget Sound hog all the money? The answers are in a state report found here. It details how each county has done in attracting transportation money.
Considering all expected state transportation funding from 2004 through 2017, including the 2003 and 2005 gas taxes, the report estimates that Spokane County gets only 70 cents of investment for every tax dollar its residents contribute. Only three counties did worse — Benton, Yakima and Franklin.
King County gets 98 cents of investment for each dollar it contributes. Pierce County, home of Tacoma, gets 90 cents. Snohomish County, home of Everett, gets 89 cents. Clark County, home of Vancouver, gets only 81 cents.
What places get more than they invest?
The following is a corrected version of an earlier post.
Noticeably absent from the ceremony on Tuesday that celebrated the start of construction of a portion of the North Spokane Corridor were any elected Republican officials.
It was Spokane Mayor Mary Verner who served as master of ceremony (though the freeway still hasn’t reached city limits). The speakers besides honored guest U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, included U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and state Sen. Chris Marr — both Democrats facing tough reelection battles.
Besides the speakers, among those who were given gold-colored shovels to “break ground” were state Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, and state Rep. John Driscoll, D-Spokane.
Officials said the event was organized by Murray’s office and the federal transportation department. So were Republicans shunned?
Maureen Knightly, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers received an invitation to the event last week.
(An earlier version of this post quoted a Murray spokesman who said McMorris-Rodgers likely wasn’t invited because of her stance against the stimulus bill.)
McMorris-Rodgers was not invited to a ceremony in February where it was announced that the state won the $35 million grant for the project. The freeway lanes are being funded through the controversial $787 billion federal stimulus legislation that McMorris-Rodgers opposed and Murray supported.
Other Republicans who were invited included Spokane County commissioners. Commissioner Todd Mielke confirmed that county leaders were invited but couldn’t attend because of a previously scheduled public hearing. He said commissioners participated in a later meeting at the Spokane International Airport with LaHood and several local and state transportation officials.
LaHood, who arrived in a white Suburban escorted by two Spokane Police cars, spent much of his speech praising Murray for her vote in support of the stimulus bill and for her work to create the competitive grant program using stimulus funds that ultimately funded the southbound lanes.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that identify the thieves who stole batteries from construction zone signs in the Highway 395 and North Spokane Corridor.
The thefts, which occurred between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. Wednesday, rendered the two reader boards useless until a construction company paid $1,200 to replace them.
The reader boards, one located at Hastings Road and the other at Dartford Road, alert motorists to lane restrictions and other roadway hazards created by the construction.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don’t have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.