The first leg of the long-sought North Spokane freeway opened in August 2009 and provides partial achievement of a high-speed, non-stop link from Interstate 90 to the edge of the Spokane urban area, a distance of 10.5 miles. The northern half of the project from Francis Avenue to Wandermere Road on U.S. Highway 395 is scheduled to open in 2011. It will complement the two-lane section opened in 2009, and will have interchange access for the two major North Side highways – U.S. 2 and 395.
Nearly $570 million has been committed to planning, right-of-way and construction so far. That includes a $35 million federal economic stimulus grant awarded in 2010. DOT estimates it will need another $1.6 billion to finish the freeway from Francis to I-90 and could spend another 20 years on the job. By then, the total cost could swell to $3 billion.
As early as 1946, state officials called for building a companion roadway adjacent to Division Street to improve North Side traffic flow. The push for a freeway accelerated in the 1960s and ‘70s, but a route through the Logan and Lidgerwood neighborhoods ran into opposition and stalled.
Selection of the current route on the east side of Hillyard occurred after BNSF Railway closed its facilities there in the 1980s, leaving behind large hunks of little-used property. Opposition to the current project has largely been limited to residents in the path of the freeway and a handful of activists.
Proponents see the freeway as means to increase efficiency of the region’s roads, allowing freight and general traffic to move through the area more quickly and creating jobs and economic growth in the process.
Summary written by staff writer Mike Prager