The Spokane area stands to get about $10.7 million in new federal transportation money depending on the outcome of congressional negotiations that could take place this month.
Both houses of Congress have passed versions of a new, six-year transportation spending bill, and the two bodies must convene a conference committee to iron out the differences.
Although individual projects arent itemized in the Senate version, which was set at $295 billion and passed on May 17, the Houses $284 billion transportation bill, passed in March, specifically mentions allocations totaling $10.65 million for four planned projects here.
That House version would provide $5.8 million for further work on the north-south freeway project, $3.3 million toward plans to widen Interstate 90 from Sullivan Road east to the Idaho state line, $1 million for a long-term initiative to build railroad underpasses or overpasses on busy arterials in the Spokane Valley and Rathdrum Prairie, and $550,000 to mitigate traffic concerns on U.S. 2 north of Spokane until the north-south freeway is completed.
The conference committee is expected to meet once Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, says George Poulios, an aide to Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Wash. A final bill should reach both houses before the seventh extension of the current September 2003 transportation bill expires on June 30, Poulios says.
For a freshman member of Congress, Rep. McMorris was extremely pleased about the programs funded and the level in which they were funded for this area, says Connie Partoyan, McMorriss chief of staff.
The $5.8 million proposed by the House to go to the north-south freeway, formally known as the North Spokane Corridor project, would go toward design, right-of-way purchases, and some construction. The long-planned, $2.2 billion project includes construction of a 10.5-mile freeway from U.S. 395 north of Spokane to Interstate 90 in East Spokane, and has been projected for completion in 2020.
Though the House appropriation would pay for just a fraction of the overall cost, it is probably the largest amount weve received for this project from the federal government, says Larry Larson, assistant project engineer here with the Washington state Department of Transportation. Larson says about $189 million already has been allocated for the work, most of it from Washington states nickel gasoline tax.
Work is under way to complete bridges for the freeway at Farwell Road, and to do grading between U.S. 2 and U.S. 395 north of Spokane. That work includes moving about 2 million cubic yards of earth from that area to an area south of Hawthorne Road, between Market Street and Fairview Road, where the grade is to be built up.
Larson says bids should go out this fall for the next phase of work, which will include construction of six bridges, at an estimated total cost of $20 million, on one stretch of the proposed freeway route between U.S. 395 and Francis Avenue.
The $3.3 million allocated by the House for widening I-90 east of the Sullivan interchange would need to be supplemented with additional funding from the state, and possibly more money from the federal government, says Al Gilson, state DOT spokesman here. Cost estimates on that 6 1/2-mile widening project are not available, he says.
The state currently is working on a $23.9 million project to widen a five-mile stretch of I-90 between Argonne Road and Sullivan.
The $1 million allocated for railroad overpasses or underpasses would be part of a nine-year, $280 million plan to eliminate or improve 20 dangerous and traffic-inhibiting railroad crossings on major roads between Spokane and Rathdrum, Idaho.
If approved, we may use some of that money to secure key pieces of property, says Glenn Miles, transportation manager for the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.
Miles says that design work on the first piece of that project, an overpass at Havana Street on the eastern edge of Spokane, could begin in the spring, with construction bids and work done possibly in 2006.
The smallest local allocation in the House bill was a $550,000 appropriation for traffic mitigation on U.S. 2 north of Spokane until the north-south freeway is completed. That money would be used to expand the Intelligent Traffic System network along the U.S. 2-Division Street corridor. Possible work could include the addition of a fiber-optic trunk line, traffic cameras and counters, message signs, and other equipment, says Gilson.
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