Construction of the long-proposed north-south freeway project here could begin within the next three years, provided that several million dollars are allocated to the project by the state Legislature and the federal government.
Preliminary alignment and right-of-way plans are under way for a portion of the freeway project, and construction bids could be sought on the first phase of the thoroughfare as early as October 2000, says Keith Martin, a DOT project engineer.
Were getting real close to pulling something like this together, state Department of Transportation spokesman Al Gilson told members of the Inland Northwest Electrical League during a luncheon earlier this month.
To keep the project moving forward, DOT is expected to ask the 1999 Legislature to designate $4 million to the north-south freeway project for continued design work, Gilson says. The department also plans to request additional funds to buy right of way for the long-planned project, but hasnt decided yet how much it will seek from the Legislature for that purpose, he says.
Martin estimates that during the next eight years, the state will need to spend between $20 million and $40 million to continue engineering work, buy some of the necessary right of way, and construct the first phase of the project. That figure will only be a portion of whats needed, though. Additional funds would have to come from federal sources.
Martin says that in todays dollars, DOT estimates that the entire project, which is dependent on both state and federal funding, is expected to cost about $800 million to construct.
If the money doesnt come through, the project likely would come to a standstill. At this point, were only funded through June 1999, he says.
The 1999 Legislature is expected to look at a host of different funding mechanisms for the project. So far, the money DOT has spent on the project has come from state sources and has been used to cover initial design work and the cost of developing an environmental impact statement (EIS), which was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in April 1997.
In that EIS, DOT laid out its preferred route for the freeway, which calls for its south end to intersect with Interstate 90 just west of the Thor-Freya interchange. As the new roadway heads north, it would cut across a parking lot at Spokane Community College, then span the Spokane River. Through Hillyard, it would follow the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad corridor and continue north toward Mead.
At about Hawthorne Road, the freeway would start to swing to the northwest. It would continue north of Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp.s Mead Works smelter, which is on Hawthorne Road, then intersect with U.S. 2 just south of Farwell Road and go on to link with U.S. 395 near Wandermere Golf Course.
DOT currently is developing preliminary alignment and right-of-way plans for an eight-mile section of the roadway that would stretch from the Spokane River north to Hawthorne Road.
Another study is expected to get under way soon to consider alternate alignments from Hawthorne to U.S. 395, including alternate layouts for the U.S. 2 interchange.
Martin says that he hopes to have a right-of-way plan for that northern section approved by next December.
Northern end to be built first
Once construction on the project begins, the DOT plansat this pointfor the first section thats to be built to extend from Francis to U.S. 395 near Wandermere Golf Course. That plan still is under discussion, but the department expects that section of roadway to be completed in three phases, Martin says.
An additional six phases are expected to follow, once the northernmost portion of the project has been completed. Once the entire project is completely built out, which is expected to take between 15 to 20 years, the freeway is expected to carry an average of 150,000 vehicles a day, Martin says.
Assuming DOT is able to receive a steady stream of funding for the project, the department would buy the necessary right of way from the Spokane River south to I-90 within two to three years of buying the right of way on the north end of the project, he says. Right of way also is needed along I-90 from about the Hamilton Street exit east to the Sprague Interchange so that DOT can add lanes for safe merging.
Gilson says that about 400 homes need to be purchased and removed before the north-south freeway project can be completed. He says that a majority of those homes are located near the south end of the preferred route, near I-90.
The north-south freeway is expected to be built entirely out of concrete and to be equipped with an intelligent transportation system, which will use cameras to monitor traffic along the length of the thoroughfare.
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