SPOKANE, Wash. — It was proposed back in the 1940s and still isn’t complete. Spokane-area lawmakers say they’re committed to getting the North-South Freeway finished in the next 10 years or less.
The entire North Spokane Corridor project consists of 10.5 miles of freeway. When complete, it will be a 60-mph freeway and connect I-90 on the south end to the existing US 2 at Farwell Road and US 395 at Wandermere on the north end.
KREM 2’s Whitney Ward sat down with Washington State Rep. Marcus Riccelli who is working to speed up the timeline and get the project completed as soon as possible.
Q: Spokane is booming. We know that. How crucial is this project in order just to keep up with traffic demand and our growing population?
A: I think from housing from commute times, to reducing transportation barriers, I think as part of a connected transportation system, we need to finish this project.
Q: Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said about 550 homes were purchased and then ultimately torn down in order to kind of pave the way for this project. Is that a concern for you, knowing that every single house is really valuable right now?
A: It's absolutely a concern. We're all talking about how we can use WSDOT surplus lands to potentially build housing and look at partnerships, whether that's workforce housing, or whether that be a different kinds of housing to help meet the increased demands.
Q: How could the President's infrastructure bill possibly help move up the timeline to complete the project sooner?
A: I believe we're looking at a potential of 2030. But there's drivable segments that can come online when we get it to Trent [Avenue]. I think that it's really important to make segments drivable sooner so the public can see their tax dollars at work.
Q: I'm sure that you are very well aware of the perception that this project, if it were over on the west side, that it would have been done a long time ago. So, if the project is considered fully funded here at the state level, why is it still going to be at least another decade before it's done?
A: Well, I think one of the big things is just the work to get it done. We have huge segments that take a lot of engineering, construction, labor, people, hours, hard hats and helmets. We are fully funded, but COVID has hit our transportation budget, and no future legislature is bound by a current legislature's actions. So we have to keep our eyes on it.
Q: Are you, as a state legislator, going to be able to influence how that money is spent and where it goes?
A: Well, a lot of that is formula dollars and how that comes to state but I'll tell you how that helps us. That could relieve a lot of pressure on other things as we're looking to, you know, whether it be mega projects, whether it be the Columbia River crossing in the south southwest area, or whether it be the West Seattle bridge needs repair.
Q: How much say do you have being on the transportation committee to kind of guiding those dollars?
A: Well, I certainly have a direct line to WSDOT here, I certainly spent a lot of time with the chair of our transportation. I'll use whatever influence that I have. But also, I think it's important for us in Spokane, to say that we have an interconnected transportation system. So we don't want to pit one side of the state against the other. I'll continue to fight to make sure we get honestly more than our fair share, because that's what I think I got elected to do, but also remain confident that, you know, if we work together, we can build a kind of transportation system that works for everybody.
Representative Riccelli also told KREM, he's hoping to work with WSDOT to accelerate certain portions of the project, and potentially move up the total completion date to 2026.
This story is part of KREM 2's Boomtown Week. Watch stories about the impacts of growth in Spokane and North Idaho all week long through Friday, Nov. 12.