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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

$182 million in Spokane County transportation construction planned through 2027

Vehicles headed south on Forker Road are warned of water from a natural spring leaking through the asphalt near the Bigelow Gulch-Forker Rd. interchange February 10 leading to ice on the road and dangerous conditions. Spokane County six-year construction plan includes $22 million in construction for 2022 and $182 million through 2027.   (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane County has $22 million in transportation construction projects planned for next year and $182 million planned through 2027.

County engineer Chad Coles presented the six-year transportation plan to the county commissioners in recent meetings.

The county will only have to pay $6 million of the $22 million cost for 2022’s construction projects. Federal dollars will cover $9.7 million and state dollars will pay for $6 million.

Coles said construction on Bigelow Gulch Road will be the most impactful project next year.

Bigelow Gulch Road runs from north Spokane to Spokane Valley. It used to be a quiet, two-lane thoroughfare. In the late 1990s, Spokane County began planning to expand the road and turn it into a four-lane highway with a divider.

Construction on the 8 miles of road started over a decade ago, but the county has been doing the work in phases. Several phases remain, and each one is expensive. Overall, the Bigelow Gulch Road project may come with a roughly $70 million price tag.

In 2022, the county will be working on Bigelow Gulch/Forker Connector Project 6, the easternmost phase.

The construction will be from Progress Road to Wellesley Avenue and will cost $11.8 million. The 2022 portion of the project will cost $6.7 million.

In addition to adding more lanes to Bigelow Gulch, construction will reroute the road so that it runs between East Valley High School and East Valley Middle School. The middle school is eager for the new route, Coles said.

“It’ll be a lot more reasonable alignment,” assistant county engineer Matt Zarecor said.

Major Bigelow Gulch Road projects will make up a big chunk of the county’s transportation budget for the next six years. Between now and 2027, the county plans to spend more than $40 million on Bigelow Gulch Road.

Coles said the Bigelow Gulch modifications will improve the road for trucking purposes.

“There’s a lot of freight that moves along that corridor,” he said.

Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns said the Bigelow Gulch construction will improve the road’s overall safety.

Adding a divider will eliminate head-on collisions, he said. He also noted that the construction is reducing an S-curve right near where Bigelow Gulch Road becomes Francis Avenue. That shaded curve gets icy in winter, Kerns said.

“Bigelow is notorious in the winter for being a dangerous road,” Kerns said. “It’ll be a big, big change when that’s all completed.”

In addition to the Bigelow Gulch Road work, Coles highlighted three projects for 2022 that top the $1-million threshold.

A $1.3-million realignment project will change the intersection at Craig and Thorpe roads on the West Plains, near Fairchild Air Force Base.

Craig Road intersects with Thorpe Road twice, forming two “T” intersections instead of one “X”. The two intersections are close to each other, but anyone wanting to stay on Craig Road has to turn onto Thorpe Road, follow it briefly, then turn back onto Craig Road.

The county has acquired rights of way from the Spokane International Airport and can build a section of road that will allow Craig Road drivers to continue straight across Thorpe Road, eliminating the need to stop, zig and zag.

Lincoln Road in north Spokane’s Shiloh Hills neighborhood is getting $1.4 million worth of reconstruction work from Crestline Street to Market Street.

A $1.6-million project south of Orchard Prairie on Columbia Drive from Girard Lane to Northwoods Drive will bring traffic islands, mark bike lanes and improve the road base.

In total, from 2022 through 2027, the county expects to spend the following:

  • $82 million on urban road construction
  • $5 million on pathways (for pedestrians and cyclists)
  • $13 million on traffic safety improvements (such as signals, guardrails, rumble strips )
  • $23 million on bridge construction
  • $45 million on rural road construction
  • $9 million on stormwater projects
  • $4 million on various drainage projects

No projects will approach the Bigelow Gulch Road work in total cost, but several will top the $4 million mark:

  • Two phases of construction on Harvard Road north of Liberty Lake will cost more than $7 million.
  • The Scribner Railroad Safety Project, which will include a bridge, bypass and road reconstruction, will cost $4.2 million.
  • Reconstruction work on Valley Springs Road from the Spokane city limits to Columbia Drive and Thierman Road will cost $4.7 million.
  • A Colbert Road bridge replacement will cost $4.2 million.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that the Lincoln Road project is in the Shiloh Hills neighborhood.