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WSDOT responds to Gov. Inslee's proposed budget that removes funding for North-South freeway

In a statement, WSDOT says numerous factors, such as project fund sources and statewide competition for contractors, can impact the North-South freeway timeline.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) released a statement Friday regarding the potential loss of funding for the North-South Freeway project in Spokane. 

This comes after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released his proposed transportation budget for 2023-2027, which did not include funding for the freeway.

WSDOT told KREM 2 News in November that the project was on track to be finished in 2028, but Spokane area leaders fear the governor's proposal could delay the completion of the freeway project by six years or more.

Gov. Inslee’s biennial transportation budget lists zero funding for the project from 2023-2027 before funding picks up again in future budget cycles running from 2027-2035.

Below is the statement from WSDOT:

Recently there have been news stories related to the potential for North Spokane Corridor project delay as it relates to the Governor’s proposed budget.

There are two important things to know.

First, there are multiple projects around the state that are likely to require changes to schedule. Transportation packages such as the one funding the North Spokane Corridor have a 16-year planning horizon, so it’s common that conditions sometimes change. As a state there’s a number of factors affecting the ability to deliver projects, including increased construction and materials costs, project fund sources and high statewide competition for contractors.

To be responsive to these changes, WSDOT needed to provide an updated project delivery proposal for all projects included in the last two transportation packages - Connecting Washington and Move Ahead Washington. We used criteria including honoring legal obligations like fish passage, safety investments and maintaining existing contracts, in order to objectively prioritize projects around the state. This resulted in an updated proposed plan that would impact multiple projects across the state.

Second, this proposal is just the first step in the legislative process. Legislators will develop their own proposal for negotiation and discussion.

The Governor and WSDOT recognize how crucial regional projects such as the North Spokane Corridor are and are very open to ideas that minimize or reduce changes in project schedules. We look forward to further discussion with the legislature.

The idea of the 10.5-mile North-South Freeway was first conceived in the 1940s. The project finally broke ground in 2001. In November, WSDOT explained why the actual construction has taken decades.

"The simple answer of why it has taken so long is funding has been sprinkled out through so many years," WSDOT Communications Manager Ryan Overton said in a November interview. "So, since 2001, there has been so much money allocated which is why it wasn't done all at once, the funding wasn't all available right in 2001."

5.5 miles of the NSC is already finished, with another two miles set to open in the fall of 2023. Local leaders said the project has managed to stay on budget and on schedule despite the challenges of the pandemic.

While the governor's current budget proposal doesn't include any of the funding for the NSC, it does allocate almost twice that for a new freeway in Western Washington from Tacoma to Puyallup.

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