Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal's View: Road Construction signals progress, despite frustration

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As the last of the snow melts—let’s hope it’s the last of it—the buckles in the roads and must-dodge potholes remind Inland Northwest drivers of the heavy toll snow, ice, and cold weather have on roadways.

They also serve as a harbinger of the hunter-orange construction cones of spring and summer.

The days of sitting in restricted lanes of traffic and taking circuitous routes to and from work are ahead, as are the frustrations that come with delays. But keep a couple of things in mind during those idle moments: Construction is progress, and roadwork is a good thing. It represents your tax dollars at work and provides hundreds of jobs for the construction industry while, in the long term, improving quality of life in the region.

In all, more than $110 million in road improvements are expected to start or continue in the Spokane area this construction season.

The city of Spokane has budgeted $47 million for street improvements, a significant chunk of the $227 million it plans to invest in capital projects this year. Those improvements involve projects on the Maple-Ash corridor on Spokane’s North Side, Thor and Freya streets on the South Hill, and Hamilton Street in the University District, among others.

Will it be difficult to travel many key north-south routes? Without a doubt. But it’s a small price to pay when keeping roads from dilapidating to a point that they require much more timely, extensive overhauls.

In addition to the large projects, the city is commencing work on spot projects to patch up streets damaged by the winter weather. It has taken an aggressive approach to fixing problem areas in recent years, with some degree of success.

As it turns out, they really can even fix the potholes.

Spokane isn’t alone in its investment in streets. The city of Spokane Valley plans to spend $20.6 million on capital projects, and about a quarter of that will go toward street improvements. Bigger projects in the Valley include reconstruction of part of Barker Road and improvements to the Sullivan Road-Wellesley Avenue intersection.

Meanwhile, Spokane County plans to spend $27.1 million on roads, with projects ranging from improvements to streets near the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center that’s scheduled to open by summer’s end to the fourth stage of reconstruction on Bigelow Gulch Road.

And then there’s the North Spokane Corridor. Despite jokes and memes about the time it’s taking to build the new north-south freeway, the $1.49 billion project is moving ahead, with a couple of big projects expected to wrap up this year, including freeway bridges that are rising over Freya Street. On the horizon is the long-term, but temporary, closure of Wellesley Avenue between Market and Freya streets to accommodate construction of a new interchange there, a $30.5 million project. While the freeway isn’t close to being completed, progress continues to be made on the Washington state Department of Transportation’s schedule.

All of these improvements go a long way to making the Spokane area more livable for those who reside here and more attractive to those who visit. That’s the payoff we’ll try to keep in mind as traffic crawls through construction zones. In the end, the inconvenience is worth it.

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