In the heat of deliberation as the Legislature worked to pass the recent $16 billion transportation package, Spokane’s share of the transportation revenue looked rather bleak. Things started out well, but took a turn when the package stalled in the State Senate. At this point, seven organizations from around Spokane took it upon themselves to make sure projects vital to the growth of the region receive necessary funding. The result of their efforts: More than a billion dollars for Spokane, connecting the North Spokane Corridor to I-90, interchange improvements on the West Plains, Barker to Harvard improvements along I-90 and much more.
“This is such an exciting time to live and work in Spokane,” said Cheryl Stewart, Executive Director of the Inland Northwest Associated General Contractors. “This transportation package is just one more way our community is investing in itself. The Overall impact of these projects will create thousands of living wage jobs and open the doors for even more development.”
The coalition consists of the Inland Northwest Association of General Contractors, Spokane International Airport, West Plains Chamber of Commerce, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Spokane Good Roads Association, Spokane Regional Labor Council and the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“The Spokane Area Good Roads Association has had 112 years of advocating for transportation improvements in Spokane,” said Steve Robinson, President of the Spokane Area Good Roads Association. “The new revenue package that completes the NSC has been a 60 year community effort. We commend the many supporters for unifying in this effort.”
The biggest win for the Coalition is the North Spokane Corridor. The Legislature authorized nearly $879 million to complete connecting the NSC to I-90. Planning and design phases are underway and the final phase of the NSC should be complete by 2029.
“We cannot thank our Legislators enough for ensuring this package includes full funding to complete the North Spokane Corridor,” said Stewart, of the Inland Northwest AGC. “This community has been advocating for this project for many years and we are now finally able to finish what we’ve started!”
In 2017, the West Plains will see major improvement at the Medical Lake and Geiger interchanges. The $26.2 million project will increase freight mobility and improve access to undeveloped areas. Construction of the interchanges in the West Plains should be complete by the end of 2021.
“We want to thank Sen. Baumgartner and Sen. Billig as well as Reps. Ormsby and Riccelli for their leadership to ensure that these projects were included as part of the transportation funding package,” said Al French, Chairman of the Spokane Airport Board. “The airport board is anticipating the completion of the improvement projects at Geiger and Medical Lake interchanges as it will help to unlock the development and potential of land in the vicinity of Spokane International Airport to help meet our aerospace and related industry recruitment objectives.
Spokane Valley will also enjoy much needed improvement along I-90 from Barker to Harvard road. The $26.4 million project will increase access to approximately 500 acres of commercial development.
“I’m excited to be part of a coalition of this caliber,” said Katherine Morgan, President and CEO of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We realize taking a regional approach allows us to impact more change together than any one of us can alone. Working together creates such a strong result.”
Some areas of the State, like King County, are in the midst of a major economic boom. For King County, one of the side effects the economic upturn is unemployment of less than four percent. Spokane County has not been as lucky or as quick to recover from the Great Recession. As of May, local unemployment numbers are much higher and, in some cases, almost double that of Puget Sound.
“From start to finish and beyond, transportation projects are always about jobs,” said Steve Stevens, President and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated. “During their construction, the movement of employees upon their completion and the businesses that will locate and grow along their corridors make them extremely wise investments.”
In the past, Spokane has always been a net loser when it comes to transportation. Under the previous transportation package in 2005, Spokane only saw 41 cents of benefit per dollar paid. The current package provides $1.29 in benefit for every dollar invested.
“If someone offered me an opportunity to invest with a guaranteed return of 29 percent for the next 15 years, you can be pretty sure I would take that deal,” said Joe Jackson, Executive Director of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce. “This is just a small example of what we can do when we work together and strive to achieve a common goal. It proves we are better together.”
We invite the community to join us for a celebration of this historic package on Monday, July 27th from 4-6pm at the Spokane Convention Center. Click here for more information.