Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Spokane Mayor David Condon toured a construction site on the southbound lanes of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) -- and urged U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Ray LaHood to support an $18.9 million transportation grant for the project. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), LaHood will announce whether the NSC earns the grant next month.
"The North Spokane Corridor is critical for Eastern Washington businesses and jobs," said Cantwell. "When the North Spokane Corridor is done, $13 billion of freight will stop clogging city streets and start moving down a wide-open highway. This is a critical investment for Spokane area businesses, families and travelers."
"The North Spokane Corridor is the region's top transportation priority," said Mayor Condon. "With the strong support of our federal and state officials, we have a tremendous opportunity to continue its construction for the benefit of our economy and our citizens."
In March 2012, WSDOT applied for an $18.9 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant. If awarded, WSDOT would use the grant to:
Relocate 7.5 miles of BNSF mainline and switch spur rail tracks near the Freya Street interchange
Build two new structures to carry future freeway traffic over the BNSF tracks
Extend an existing 5.5-mile bicycle/pedestrian trail for more than one mile to serve the Hillyard neighborhood
Each of these components is critical to the NSC's completion and would bring the project one step closer to I-90.
A completed NSC would be a tremendous boost to Eastern Washington's freight network. Once it's done, the NSC would allow trucks and commuters to bypass city streets with 29 stoplights for a modern, high-speed roadway that links I-90 with US-395. This would save an estimated 30 minutes of driving time, divert up to 100,000 trips per day from city streets and reduce annual travel time up and down the corridor by 9.4 million hours per year. The estimated value of these efficiencies is $240 million each year.
Those hours will add up for the farmers and manufacturers that transport goods and materials through the corridor. According to WSDOT, freight-dependent industries in Spokane County employed nearly 100,000 people in 2009, the most recent year data is available. Each year, $13.5 billion dollars of freight move along the existing corridor -- or about 7 million tons. The NSC will help spur economic development in the future.
The completed NSC will also increase access to more than 500 acres of commercial and industrial land ripe for development. In 2010, more than 533 million tons of freight moved in Washington -- a number expected to grow by 86 percent by 2040.
Cantwell is a strong advocate of WSDOT's request for a TIGER Grant for the NSC. Just two weeks ago, she spoke to Secretary LaHood and urged him to give the project a grant. In an April 16 letter to LaHood, Cantwell, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05) expressed strong, bipartisan support for WSDOT's grant application. Cantwell also submitted a letter in support of the project with WSDOT's grant application.