Governor Inslee’s Seven-Year Delay Puts Growth and Jobs at Risk
(SPOKANE, Wash.) – Leaders in Spokane’s business community joined elected and transportation officials in expressing their concern about the governor’s proposed delays for the North Spokane Corridor (NSC). Governor Inslee’s biennial transportation budget, released on December 14, 2022, would push back the planned completion date for the North Spokane Corridor by six years or more. The project, which is slated for completion in the 2027-2029 biennium in the current budget, wouldn’t be finished until 2033-2035 if the governor’s plan is approved.
To many in Spokane, the project represents an overdue investment in the region’s infrastructure and economy. The interruption in construction puts economic vitality for the region at risk according to Washington State Transportation Commissioner Kelly Fukai. “It is disappointing to see another proposed postponement on the delivery of this critical infrastructure for the Spokane region. I am especially concerned about the communities adjacent to the project who will feel a disproportionate impact due to this proposed delay. I hope there is opportunity to reconsider the programming of this project so that the community can finally realize the benefits of this long-awaited project.”
The practical concerns of delaying such a large construction project already underway trouble Cheryl Stewart, Executive Director of the Inland Northwest Associated General Contractors (AGC). “The Governor’s proposal to delay the construction of the NSC will do nothing to help ensure an adequate workforce. In fact, it will do the opposite. The industry has been ramping up in preparation for this work for several years, and to have it suddenly go away will do irreparable harm to our local trades. These workers will have to leave the area to find work, and we may never get them back. We have worked as a community to program other projects around this timeline and disrupting it will leave a giant hole in our region that we may never be able to dig our way out of.”
With 5.5 miles of the corridor already complete, and another 2-mile section set to open in the fall of 2023,[L1] the project remains on track for a 2027-2028 completion. Additional delays drive further concerns regarding the movement of people, goods, and services. Lance Beck, the President and CEO of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce says, “The NSC will serve as a critical corridor to move not only our workers but products through the region. The project’s completion has been planned for and coincides with other active projects throughout the region like the Bigelow Gulch Corridor, and North Division Bus Rapid Transit. A major delay would most certainly cause challenges for our regional transportation system to operate at peak efficiency.”
A bright spot for the project has been WSDOT’s ability to remain on budget and on schedule. In fact, the project was accelerated during the 2022 legislative session at the urging of community leaders. Alisha Benson, CEO of Greater Spokane, Incorporated added, “The NSC project has remained on schedule and on budget despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. Spokane workers and businesses have stepped up in a major way to make this happen. Stripping the project of funding at this juncture will cost our region millions in the long run.”
About the North Spokane Corridor
Currently under construction, the North Spokane Corridor was first conceived in 1946 and broke ground more than 20 years ago in 2001 according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The corridor would act as an alternate North/South route through the city of Spokane, bypassing current surface roads which are slowed by traffic lights and congestion. At completion, the project will consist of a 10.5-mile-long 60-mile-per-hour stretch connecting I-90 at Thor/Freya in the south to US 2 and US 395 at Wandermere in the north.
About Greater Spokane Inc.
Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) is the Spokane region’s business development organization. GSI creates the place where organizations come together to advocate for the region, drive strategic economic growth, and champion a talented workforce. GSI is funded through a combination of private and public investment, including 800 private-sector members; Spokane County; Washington State Department of Commerce; and the cities of Spokane, Spokane Valley, Cheney, Deer Park, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, Medical Lake, Millwood, Newport, and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians. For more information visit GreaterSpokane.org
About the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce
The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce is a catalyst for building relationships, driving collaboration, and championing opportunity in the Greater Spokane Valley. The Chamber is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization serving the business communities in Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Millwood, and areas of unincorporated Spokane County. For more information, visit SpokaneValleyChamber.org
The Inland Northwest AGC is a membership organization dedicated to furthering the ever-changing agenda of commercial construction contractors. They are the leading national construction trade association representing all facets of commercial construction for both public and private entities including building, heavy, highway and municipal projects. For more information, visit nwagc.org