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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Freeway deemed ‘wasteful’

DOT defends north-south route proposal

Kristina Johnson The Spokesman-Review
Spokane’s proposed north-south freeway has made a list of the nation’s 50 most wasteful road projects, as ranked by two watchdog groups based in Washington, D.C. Taxpayers for Common Sense and Friends of the Earth plan to debut the 60-page report, “Road to Ruin,” during a meeting today at the National Press Club. The proposed north-south freeway weighs in at No. 45, earning the distinction based on its price tag, community cost and environmental toll, according to the report. The report says the state Department of Transportation plans to spend $875 million on a project that serves only local needs and ignores other areas, like the Spokane Valley. The DOT puts the cost at $892 million in 1999 dollars, or $2.1 billion in 2020. “Only so much money comes to Spokane,” said Julian Powers, a member of the Washington Environmental Council who served as a local contact for the report. “Are we willing to commit the majority of it to the north-south freeway?” The freeway would displace hundreds of homes and businesses, splitting up one of the few Spokane neighborhoods with a significant minority population, according to the report. And, the report says, the freeway encourages travel by car, which increases the region’s carbon monoxide problems. “Remember: Build it, and they will come,” Powers said. DOT spokesman Al Gilson dismissed the report’s findings, saying he distrusts its environmental roots. “That would concern me,” he said. He went on to counter the report’s findings point by point. For one, he said, the project would serve the entire region, as well as international travel to Canada and Mexico. “The freeway would get a lot of heavy international and regional traffic off our local streets, like Division and the Market/Greene corridor,” Gilson said. New federal laws required the DOT to address “environmental justice issues” to make sure the proposed project didn’t target low-income and minority neighborhoods, he said. As for carbon monoxide concerns, the freeway will decrease the region’s problems, Gilson said. “There’s no starting and stopping.” Gilson said the groups never contacted DOT for details on the freeway. “It looks like they did not do a full investigation of this issue before they put it on the list,” he said.
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