SPOKANE, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee signed Washington’s 2023-25 transportation budget into law Tuesday.
At the beginning of the year, Gov. Inslee proposed a pause on the project until 2027, but state lawmakers ultimately approved $166 million to keep the project going for at least the next two years. Perhaps no one is more relieved than Spokane Community College (SCC), where construction is running right through the front of campus.
Since 2020, students, staff and faculty at SCC have watched the project progress in the front parking lot.
"This project has had so many kinds of bumps and hurdles along the way," said Kevin Brockbank, the new SCC Chancellor. "We had a loss of about 900 parking spots, and then internally, it really changes a lot about the way our campus is shaped and how people are going to access the services here."
SCC is expected to remain a primary work zone for at least the next year. However, the section of freeway currently being built in the parking lot isn’t connected on either end. Current projections show the section likely won't be operational until around 2027.
The current completion date for the entire freeway is 2030, but Spokane County Commissioner Al French said there is no guarantee.
"That's only if we keep our pedal to the metal," French said. "The legislature did their job and allocated the money. Now, the governor and WSDOT need to be able to provide the resources and keep this project a priority."
Funding in the state’s transportation budget is currently allocated for the next eight years, adding up to more than $1.5 billion. However, the budget is negotiable every two years, as each biennial budget has to be approved by lawmakers.
French told KREM 2 he had worries that the current construction site at Mission and Greene would come to a halt until funding came through.
"Whenever you're on this side of the state, not the other side of the state, sometimes projects get out of sight," he said. "So yeah, that is very much a concern."
Several local leaders, like French, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and state representative Rep. Marcus Riccelli, immediately spoke out against the governor's proposal. Riccelli even spoke out at the state capitol.
"We didn't want to halt this project and the community really backed that up with a strong clear message to Olympia," Riccelli said. "When we can work together, we can do big things in Spokane."
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