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North Spokane Corridor

Cars travel the North Spokane Corridor on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

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Summary

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

Latest updates in this topic

Transpo package is dead

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler talks about what will and won't happen during the remainder of the session at a press conference with House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen and Senate Republican Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette.

OLYMPIA — Good news for Spokane motorists: You won't be paying an extra 11.5 cents in taxes for gasoline over the next three years. Bad news: The Legislature doesn't have a plan to come up with the money to finish the North Spokane Corridor or several other “mega projects” many people think it needs.

A possible $8 billion transportation package that would raise fuel and motor vehicle taxes and generate money for major road projects, maintenance and mass transit will not pass the Legislature this session, Republican leaders of both chambers said today.

The lasts chance for a package crashed with recriminations all around.

They blame with Senate Democrats for not being willing to accept reforms to the way the state plans, funds and builds major transportation projects Senate Democrats, in turn, said the predominantly Republican coalition that controls the Senate never even scheduled a committee hearing on their package so it could be brought to the chamber for a vote.

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen said Inslee should have led a “cohesive effort” to bring the leaders of both chambers together and negotiate a deal. A spokesman for Inslee said the governor had a meeting with Senate Transportation Co-Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, on Monday and asked if a new proposal was worth bringing all leaders together for negotiations and was told “No.”

 Inslee, who has made a transportation package one of his top priorities since taking office last year, said he was disappointed there would be no package and found it difficult to understand why the Legislature couldn't reach an agreement on something the state clearly needs.

 The Housed passed its version of a package last year, and Democrats who control that chamber said they were ready to negotiate as soon as the Senate passed one of its own. Senate Republicans introduced a different proposal last month that never had the necessary votes to pass and thus never came to a vote.

That Senate version had $750 million to finish the corridor, sometimes called the North-South Freeway.  The House version had about $480 million, which would complete the next phase.

The failure to reach agreement on the package is not a surprise. On a lobbying trip to Olympia in January, Spokane's business, political and civic leaders were told not to get to expect a package would come out of  the short legislative session.

Senate majority offers roads package

OLYMPIA — The coalition controlling the Senate released a $12 billion transportation package that would raise gasoline taxes by 11.5 cents over three years and finish several major projects, including Spokane's North-South Freeway.

They said they have support from 13 of their members — or half the ruling caucus — meaning they'd need 17 votes from minority Democrats to pass the spending package and its accompanying bonds. 

At a lunchtime press conference, a group of eight senators, including Spokane Republican Mike Baumgartner, called for quick negotiations with House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee to try to find a package that can get super majority support in both chambers. The Senate proposal differs significantly from the House plan in spending for some projects and calls for changes in the way the state plans, builds and taxes transportation projects. Among those changes, an end to sales tax on those projects, which is a financial hit to the state's general fund.

Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said removing the sales tax lowers the price of the project, and the general fund will more than make up the loss through the added economic development the projects will generate. The reforms are necessary to restore the public's faith after some high profile problems with big projects like the 520 bridge and the Alaska Way tunnel.

The package would spend $750 million to finish the North-South Freeway, which is also called the North Spokane Corridor, so it connects with Interstate 90. By building that and other large projects in phases, the state doesn't see the economic impact of a completed project, Republicans argued.

The North-South Freeway has been under construction for years, and under discussion for decades. Baumgartner said he grew up believing the road “lives in the land of fairies and flying unicorns.”

“I will not support a package that does not allow full funding for the North-South Freeway to come to I-90,” he said.

Also on the project list are $15 million for widening State Route 904 from Cheney to I-90, and $11.7 million to add a passing lane on U.S. 195 between Colfax and Spangle.

The gasoline tax would go up 4 cents next year, 4 cents in 2016 and 3.5 cents in 2017. The proposal doesn't have language that automatically sends it to the ballot, but senators said it could easily wind up there.

They challenged House Democrats and Inslee to meet with them next Wednesday morning to begin negotiations. Tom said he “absolutely” believed a transportation package could be passed in the current legislative session, which is now slightly more than half over.

House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, cast doubt on the prediction, however. She released a statement that described the package as undoing work from last year and putting “untested ideas” on the table. And the package doesn't have clear support from the coalition she added.

“We remain insistent that the Senate Majority either pass its proposal or provide a clear demonstrations that it has enough votes to pass,” she said. “We look forward to resuming negotiations once the Senate Majority has finished negotiation among itself.”

 

Sunday Spin: Spokane delegation makes its annual trek west

OLYMPIA – A delegation of more than 80 Spokane-area folks arrived here last week with their annual “agenda” – some might call it a wish list – of things the Legislature could do to make life better for the state in general and the center of the Inland Empire in particular.

This annual trek to the capital sponsored by Greater Spokane, Inc., herds well-briefed leaders of business, political, education and civic groups through the marbled rooms and committee rooms and is the envy of many other cities and counties around Washington. It has prompted the sincerest form of flattery, imitation, from other communities but many legislators still say Spokane’s full-court press lobbying remains the best.

At least that’s what some tell members of the Spokane throng. Others offer recollections of their last visit to the city or Spokane Valley, or some other anecdote to show they are all paisans. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Prospects poor for highway package, GSI group told

OLYMPIA – Don't get your hopes up for new money to finish the North-South Freeway, a group of business, civic and political leaders from Spokane was told Wednesday.

The chances the Legislature will pass a package of big road projects paid by a gasoline tax are almost non-existent.

Some legislators blamed politics or the lack of support among Republican legislators from the Spokane area. Others blamed problems at the state Transportation Department. Some said a package can't make it out of the Legislature during the current abbreviated session. Others said any package that did would surely wind up on the ballot, where voters would reject it.

Together, they painted a bleak outlook for one of the top items – and by far the most expensive – on the Greater Spokane Inc. 2014 agenda as more than 80 local leaders arrived in Olympia for their annual three-day lobbying session. .  .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog. 

Transpo package gets hearing today

OLYMPIA – Senate negotiators will begin the push today for a package of new road projects and improved maintenance that could complete the long-discussed North Spokane Corridor and raise gasoline taxes by 11.5 cents over three years.
The package of 10 related bills, with a total price tag of $8.7 billion for projects all over the state, gets a formal airing at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing this afternoon. Whether it will prompt a special session or just lay the groundwork for more debate next year is unknown…
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Both Transpo Budgets hold line on taxes, projects

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.

To continue reading this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Some gas tax money for N. Spokane Corridor

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. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Snip-snip: N. Spokane Corridor photo op today

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.

Feds to give N. Spokane Corridor $10 million

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.

To read the announcement of the grant, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Senate Transportation Budget: No $ for Keller Ferry

OLYMPIA – The two legislative committees trying to decide how to spend nearly $9 billion on transportation over the next two years “largely agree” on how to spend it, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said Tuesday.
Neither would seek an increase in the gasoline tax this year, although some members of both panels say that could happen in 2012. Both would spend nearly $72 million on the next phase of Spokane’s North-South freeway.
There is one big difference between the two budgets for Eastern Washington, however. The House proposal sets aside some $12 million to replace the 63-year-old Keller Ferry, which crosses the Columbia River between Ferry and Lincoln counties. The Senate proposal sets aside no money to replace it, and specifically states  that none be spent.
“As long as the boat continues to float, I’m not so sure it’s as big a priority,” Haugen, the Camano Island Democrat and longtime head of the Senate Transportation Committee, said as the panel’s spending plan was released…
  

 To continue reading this item or to comment, go inside the blog.

For charts on the Senate and House Transportation budget proposals, click here.

Marr, Baumgartner debate freeway spending; Does Seattle take more than its fair share?

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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?

Republicans absent from corridor celebration

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Ray LaHood on Obama transportation plan, 9-7-2010
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Sen. Patty Murray on Obama transportation plan, 9-7-2010
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Sen. Patty Murray speaks at freeway ceremony, 9-7-2010

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.

Tips sought on highway safety sign thefts

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.