Spokane Journal of Business

First North Spokane Corridor project looms

State transportation agency has begun buying homes, land along highway route

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After decades of discussion and planning, work on the nearly $1 billion North Spokane Corridor project, known more commonly as the north-south freeway, now is just a matter of weeks from getting under way.

The Washington state Department of Transportations eastern region, this week is issuing a call for bids for the first piece of construction work on the project, says Al Gilson, DOTs eastern region spokesman. That initial piece, estimated earlier to cost about $11.5 million, will involve grading and installing drainage facilities along a part of the planned highway route stretching north from the intersection of Market Street and Hawthorne Road to U.S. 2 just east of Farwell Elementary School. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for August.

The North Spokane Corridor will be a 60-mph, limited-access highway extending from Interstate 90 near the Thor-Freya interchange north to U.S. 395 at Wandermere, and will include several major interchanges along the route. The highway is expected to have eight lanes from I-90 to Francis Avenue, six lanes from Francis to U.S. 2 (including future high-occupancy-vehicle lanes in both cases), and four lanes from U.S. 2 to U.S. 395.

The project also will include a bike and pedestrian trail, park-and-ride lots, and space for a future light-rail line or other high-capacity transit system.

The overall project currently is expected to cost about $892 millionearlier estimates ranged between $1 billion and $2 billionand to take seven to 20 years to complete, depending on how quickly incremental funding for it is approved. Gilson says right-of-way acquisition costs probably will amount to around $250 million of that overall figure.

The state DOT already has begun acquiring right of way along the planned route. Tim Golden, manager of real estate services for the departments eastern region, says the DOT has bought 11 homes so far, most of them on the north end of the planned highway route, at a total cost of about $1.5 million. It has demolished eight of the homes and has auctioned off two others that then were moved. The one other home that it has bought so far also will be sold at auction and moved. The agency is negotiating with seven other residential property owners and with Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. to acquire other pieces of land needed for the project, Golden says.

Those purchases and negotiations represent just the beginning of a real-estate acquisition effort that state officials say is expected to take six to eight years to complete and to involve the purchase of some 700 parcels.

Golden says the state doesnt have the time to auction off all of the homes it will be buying, partly because the auction process tends to consume a lot of time in the context of a large project such as this one.

Part of what will determine whether they get demolished is whether theyre decent, safe, and sanitary, or contaminated with asbestos or some other hazardous material, he says, adding that some of the homes the DOT has bought thus far didnt meet those criteria.

Plans call for the North Spokane Corridor to be developed in two major phasesone north of the Spokane River, and the other southand to be built in about nine separate sections. A portion of the DOTs Web site devoted to the project estimates that the project would provide about 1,500 new jobs annually in Washington state over its duration, assuming a construction-spending rate of $60 million per year, based on Federal Highway Administration research.

Kim Crompton
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