Before breaking bread with families over the Thanksgiving holiday, members of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council policy board attempted to break down which projects to prioritize when making state and federal funding requests.
Several transportation projects located in and around Spokane Valley were among those on the table during the talks on Nov. 23. While no formal action was taken, board members – including representatives from the Spokane Valley City Council – hashed out the pros and cons of the potential safety and efficiency improvements to area roadways.
SRTC – an agency which organizes the area’s transportation planning efforts – is currently working through its 2012-2015 Transportation Improvement Program along with its Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which is a long-term blueprint for mobility projects through the year 2035.
Board members agreed that the prioritized projects should somehow create jobs or stimulate the economy, thus the Sullivan Road corridor project – estimated to cost $45.55 million – was deemed worthy, especially considering the current weight restrictions placed on the southbound bridge over the Spokane River.
“I think it needs to be pursued,” Neil Kersten, Spokane Valley public works director, told board members.
It’s also a project that is likely to be looked on favorably by the state Legislature due to its regional significance in moving commercial traffic, said SRTC Executive Director Kevin Wallace.
Kersten said, however, that amount could drop by $21 million by not doing any work on the railroad bridge over the river at this time.
The Barker Road grade-separation project – estimated to cost $39.1 million – could also be put off in favor of the Sullivan Road bridge replacement, which still needs $10 million more before it can be done.
When asked by Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard what impact the Barker Road project would have in terms of improving commerce, Kersten said it would be little.
“It’s minor compared to Sullivan,” he said.
Richard also made a pitch for the long-brewing Bigelow Gulch/Forker Road connector project, price-tagged at $35.5 million. Once completed, significantly more traffic will filter onto Sullivan, impacting that arterial as well.
“This is a significant freight corridor, whether we like it or not,” Richard said.
Wendy Van Orman, Liberty Lake mayor who also sits on the board, agreed it was worthy for consideration.
“You’re bringing our employees into the Valley,” she told Richard.
Also up for consideration is a bicycle/pedestrian trail linking Millwood and Spokane Valley to the tune of $4.4 million.
The board is considering two sets of regional project priorities based on potential $155 million and $310 million funding levels from the cash-strapped state. The discussion was set to resume on Wednesday of this week.
The board is scheduled to make its final decision on the regional project priority list at its Dec. 8 board meeting.
Want to know more?
A 30-day public comment period on the TIP and MTP will conclude on Dec. 18. Comments on the documents – which are available to be seen at www.srtc.org – can be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. An open house is also scheduled on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. at SRTC, 221 W. First Ave, Suite 310. For more information, call 343-6370.