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Portion of North-South Freeway construction put on hold by car tab initiative 976

I-976 has the potential to take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state transportation budget.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The passage of Initiative 976 has put dozens of state road construction projects on hold, even those funded by other taxes and fees. 

The Washington State Department of Transportation released a list at the end of November of 90 projects that will be deferred due to Initiative I-976. 

Thirteen out of 90 projects on the list were slated for Eastern Washington.

 I-976, which voters approved earlier this month, caps car-tab fees to $30. Soon after the initiative passed, Washington Governor Jay Inslee instructed the Washington State Department of Transportation to postpone projects that were not yet underway in anticipation of a budget shortfall. 

WSDOT says the initiative would take $451 million out of the $6.7 billion biennial transportation budget. It would take $645 million out of the full biennium budget in 2021-2023, and $726 million out of the budget from 2023-2025.  

An injunction was recently placed on the initiative by a King County judge, which may postpone the start date. 

But State Attorney General Bob Ferguson later filed an "emergency motion for stay" to reverse that injunction. Essentially what that means is Ferguson wants to stop the ruling that will allow the state to keep collecting money from car tabs. 

If I-976 does go into effect on Dec. 5 as planned, the future of various transportation projects is uncertain.  

One of the delayed projects includes construction on the North Spokane Corridor, also known as the North-South Freeway, between Sprague Avenue and the Spokane River.  

WSDOT says between $45 to $50 million in work on this section of the freeway has been deferred for six months. 

Other postponed projects include millions of dollars in improvements to Interstate 90 and hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for the purchase of eight Spokane Transit Authority vanpool vehicles.

A list of the postponed projects in eastern Washington is as follows:

  • US 395 interchange construction at Ridgeline Drive
  • US 195 interchange improvements in Pullman
  • A shared use path for US 395 and the North Spokane Corridor from Spokane River to Columbia
  • I-90 interchange upgrade in Medical Lake
  • I-90 westbound ramp improvement Baker to Harvard
  • Noise walls for the Flamingo Mobile Home Park along US 395
  • Improvements to SR 240 Richland Corridor
  • Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway track rehab
  • Washington Eastern Railway track rehab
  • Spokane Airport Transload Facility
  • Cheney HPT Corridor Improvements and Vehicle Acquisition
  • Spokane County Commute Trip Reduction Office Liberty Lake Shuttle
  • Spokane Transit Authority: Replacing and Purchasing 8 new vans

A full list of deferred proposals is available from WSDOT.

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