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

Getting There: Looking ahead to North Spokane Corridor construction in 2023

Construction on the North Spokane Corridor river crossing, one component of the ongoing freeway project, is expected to begin in the spring of 2023 and last through the 2025 construction season. The work is likely to cause delays and disruptions on both sides of the Spokane River.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane’s long-awaited north-south corridor has been in the works for decades. Its completion date could still be more than a decade away.

But while the state legislature finalizes the biennial budget and decides whether the North Spokane Corridor will be done by the end of the decade, work crews continue construction on the 10.5 -mile freeway connecting Interstate 90 with U.S. Highway 395 in the Wandermere area, one section at a time.

Construction on a segment that will span the Spokane River near Spokane Community College is getting underway this spring, including a parallel pedestrian bridge linking the Children of the Sun Trail over the river.

Another section of freeway and trail stretching north from the river to Columbia Avenue is expected to be completed by this fall. A small section south of the river to Mission Avenue, bordering Spokane Community College, is projected to be mostly done this year, with minor work stretching into 2024.

For the better part of a century, the freeway has been envisioned as a superior north-south route through Spokane, relieving nearby Division Street of major freight and creating an opportunity for more robust pedestrian, bicycle and public transportation traffic on that city roadway.

The North Spokane Corridor finally broke ground in 2001, and about 5.5 miles of the corridor north of the Freya Street interchange is completed and drivable.

The remainder of the corridor was funded under the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package, and work got underway in 2018, extending the freeway south to Columbia Avenue. Until recently, the project was slated to reach I-90 by 2030.

When Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his proposed budget earlier this year, his plan pushed back completion to 2035, citing increased costs, high demand for contractors and other factors. However, after concerted pushback to the proposed delay, the governor and local lawmakers have emphasized that they remain committed to keeping the project on track.

Completed projects Freya to Columbia

In 2019, the first major section of the freeway’s southern half was completed, stretching from the Freya interchange south to Columbia Avenue. However, drivers aren’t able to access that section until it is connected to the Wellesley Avenue interchange, work that is expected to be completed this year.

Railroad realignment

The first major North Spokane Corridor project funded by the Connecting Washington transportation package, work began in 2019 to realign the BNSF railroad tracks in the Hillyard neighborhood west toward Market Street.

Completed in 2021, the $80 million project was complicated by a site along the route that had been polluted by a petroleum product storage tank that sat there from 1910 to 2006.

Current projects Columbia to Spokane River

Work began on the stretch of freeway between Columbia Avenue and the Spokane River in 2021, and it’s expected to be finished before winter.

Along with the freeway, this phase includes the widening of Wellesley Avenue between Market and Freya streets, as well as the construction of two roundabouts at the north- and southbound interchanges.

Once the $49 million phase is completed, motorists will be able to access the North Spokane Corridor from the Wellesley Avenue interchange northward, including over the previously completed but disconnected section between Columbia Avenue and Freya Street.

It will be the first new drivable section of the freeway completed since 2012.

An accompanying extension of the Children of the Sun Trail from Columbia Avenue to the Spokane River is also projected to open in late-summer to early fall. The $15.3 million phase of the paved path includes a number of pedestrian bridges and neighborhood access points where it intersects with Euclid, Garland, Wellesley and Columbia avenues.

The Children of the Sun Trail currently runs from the Wandermere area to Columbia Avenue but will eventually cross the Spokane River and connect with the Centennial and Ben Burr trails to the south.

Spokane River to Mission

Since July 2021, crews have been constructing a raised section of the freeway between Ermina Avenue and Mission Avenue just south of the Spokane River.

Work on the $35 million phase over Spokane Community College’s parking lot is expected to be largely completed by the end of the year, with minor work likely extending into 2024.

This will be the first section of the North Spokane Corridor completed south of the river and will eventually be connected with two bridges for north and southbound traffic.

Future projects Spokane River crossing

Two sections of the North Spokane Corridor are going to be completed this year, one on each side of the river. Initially, there will be nothing between them .

Bids to build the bridge that connects them, as well as a nearby pedestrian bridge for the Children of the Sun Trail, were due Thursday. The approximately $91 million project is expected to start this spring and last through the 2025 construction season.

Traffic delays and disruptions in the area are anticipated during work in the river and on the embankment, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Mission to Sprague

Although the state Department of Transportation is treating the sections of freeway from Mission to Trent avenues and from Trent to Sprague avenues as different phases, they’re both expected to start in 2024 and end in 2028 or 2029 – presuming the state Legislature doesn’t allow more delays.

These stretches of the North Spokane Corridor will include a half interchange at Trent Avenue, with a northbound on-ramp and southbound off-ramp.

Sprague to I-90

The home stretch for the North Spokane Corridor is going to be a long one. While the last phase does little to further the north-south freeway’s goal to go either north or south, the work to build extensive tie-ins to a nearly 3-mile stretch of I-90 won’t be finished until at least 2030.

While there are clear goals for this final phase, including replacing aging pedestrian bridges over the interstate, some designs are still being determined and community feedback will be sought, said state Department of Transportation Eastern Region spokesman Ryan Overton. While he couldn’t provide many specifics, construction is likely to start in either 2024 or 2025, he said.

Work to watch for

Thorpe Road and Westbow Boulevard between Grove and Spotted roads near the Spokane International Airport will close Monday through Wednesday for installation of a water valve for future projects.

The Euclid Road bridge over the train tracks near Lyons Road will close Wednesday and is expected to remain closed until September for a replacement project.