Gov. Inslee’s proposed budget could create years-long delays for North-South freeway project

SPOKANE, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee’s proposed transportation budget could cause some long delays in the construction of Spokane’s North-South freeway project.

Gov. Inslee released his biennial transportation budget on December 14, outlining a 16-year spending plan for the Department of Transportation’s capital construction programs.

Under this plan, the North Spokane Corridor likely wouldn’t be finished until 2033-2035, six years from the expected completion in 2027-2029.

The North-South freeway, which was conceived in 1946 and broke ground in 2001, would offer a route directly connecting north and south Spokane without using current surface roads, like Division Street.

Spokane business leaders and transportation officials argued that this interruption in the freeway’s construction puts the region’s economic vitality at risk.

“It is disappointing to see another proposed postponement on the delivery of this critical infrastructure for the Spokane region. I am especially concerned about the communities adjacent to the project who will feel a disproportionate impact due to this proposed delay. I hope there is opportunity to reconsider the programming of this project so that the community can finally realize the benefits of this long-awaited project,” said Kelly Fukai, Washington State Transportation Commissioner.

So far, about 5.5 miles of the corridor have already been completed, with another two-mile section set to open this fall.

Despite countless obstacles, the project has remained on budget and on schedule. If Inslee’s budget is approved however, it would push resources from the corridor project towards other priorities, like traffic safety and ferry systems on the other side of the state.

Greater Spokane Inc. publicly opposed the budget proposal, saying the governor should prioritize transportation in Eastern Washington.

“To see this delay again, we got an acceleration last year after legislators in the region fought for an acceleration last year, to see suddenly this money is stripped away from our communities is tough,” said Jake Mayson, director of Public Policy for Greater Spokane Inc. “We’ve planned a large project with the Division of Rapid Transit project that’s been planned around this North Spokane Corridor, that’s just one of probably a dozen of transportation projects that have really relied on this kind of planning. This is going to mean longer commute times it’s gonna make it harder to get to and from work for everybody, but beyond that it’s gonna stunt the growth of our businesses, especially in those communities that have been underserved.”

Spokane’s third Legislative District delegation, comprised of Sen. Andy Billig and Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, of issued the following statement on the budget proposal:

“We were disappointed to see the Governor’s transportation budget proposal suggest a pause in construction of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC).  Simply put, this decision does not have our support, nor does it have the support of people across Spokane and Eastern Washington who for years have been waiting for the completion of this vital project.

“Thankfully the Governor’s budget is only a recommendation, and it is the legislature that will ultimately create and pass the final budget.

“A pause in construction would cost taxpayers significantly more money in the long-run and delay the positive benefits of this project for our region. It is also important to point out that any pause of the NSC will negatively impact the transformative North Division “Division Connects” project  — a key improvement that will dramatically improve the North Division corridor. This project is closely tied to the NSC and cannot be completed before the NSC is operational.

“We will not support any proposal that pauses a safer, quicker, and less congested north-south route that connects to I-90. It simply does not make sense to halt a project that will not only pay for itself in economic impact, but also benefit our state with significantly reduced travel time and emissions.

“We will continue to work with our legislative colleagues and community partners to ensure NSC is funded at the level necessary for it to be completed as fast as possible.”

READ: Work begins on south portion of North Spokane Corridor