It’s not often one of the most powerful women in Congress stops by, so the Spokane Valley City Council didn’t waste time being subtle.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 5th District representative to the House of Representatives, met with members of the Spokane Valley City Council on April 4 in recognition of the municipality’s 10th birthday. By the time the hour meeting was over, she had a key to the city and an urgent request to do whatever she could to help secure $4 million to cover the reminder of the cost to replace the southbound Sullivan Road Bridge.
“It’s basically the economic artery for our city,” said Council Member Dean Grafos. “Maybe you can use your influence and see if you can help us.”
To date, Spokane Valley has secured $13.5 million in federal funding for the $19.7 million project. However, a $3.5 state Transportation Improvement Board grant can only be used if the city begins work on the new bridge this year.
Mayor Tom Towey said he was unsure if the remainder of the funds would be released by the state Legislature if a transportation bill is passed this session.
“I can touch base with the Legislature and see what I can do to help,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Bridging the Valley – a long-simmering plan to remove all at-grade rail crossings throughout Spokane Valley – also was mentioned as a possibility for future federal funding, especially with the impending possibility of more coal trains.
“I think it’s time to move Bridging the Valley back to the front burner,” Towey said, adding that the Barker intersection has the highest accident rate and should probably be done first.
Since the project would involve a freight corridor that crosses state lines, McMorris Rodgers said there could be federal money available.
“I think that your timing would be good,” she said.
Council members also asked the congresswoman to continue to support the Community Development Block Grant program to continue to protect the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds.
Before being presented the key to the city, McMorris Rodgers praised Spokane Valley’s council and staff for their fiscal prudence.
“You’re stepping up and providing leadership,” she said. “That’s a tremendous responsibility.”