The above freezing temperatures have allowed construction workers to get back on the job, including on the North Spokane Corridor. But after they finish the existing small projects, there’s no funding in place. Al Gilson with Washington’s transportation department says discussions started in the 1940's for a north-south freeway in Spokane.
Today, about half of it is complete. Five and a half of ten total miles are paved. This spring and summer, crews will replace the Francis Avenue Bridge, and work with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to realign rail tracks and build bridges over them. Gilson says these jobs will be complete by 2015.
Gilson: “Those are the last funded construction projects that we have money available for. We of course are confident or hopefully that the legislature and our federal officials see the importance of this project.”
The legislature in Washington state did pass a supplemental transportation budget this month, but that basically gave tweaks to funding around the state, no real boost to the corridor. That bothers Representative Marcus Riccelli from Spokane.
Riccelli: “I don’t want to give floor speeches any more about a project that started some 30 years before I was even born.”
Riccelli sits on the House transportation committee. Last year 480-million dollars was proposed for the corridor, but he blames partisan disagreements for the failure of that package. Riccelli says next time they talk transportation funding, it’s going to take bi-partisan support, especially from east-side lawmakers. That, and a gas tax.
Riccelli: “Cause if you ask anybody if they want to be taxed more they say no. But if you ask folks if they want to see this project completed many hands go in the air. I think we need to just go out and come to an agreement on something and then pitch it to our community that this is our opportunity to get it done.”
Getting it done is just what Al Gilson hopes for. He says the sooner the better.
Gilson: “The sooner we have funding available to us, the sooner we can get work done and avoid the cost of inflation. Freeway construction uses petroleum products, we use construction products, this would have been a lot cheaper years and years ago.”
The 10 mile corridor’s price tag is more than $700-million, and there’s no money set aside for work on the highway past early 2015.
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio