Senate transportation plan finishes North-South Freeway, huge win for Eastern Washington, Baumgartner says

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

OLYMPIA… A $15 billion transportation plan approved by the state Senate March 2 finally realizes Spokane’s dream of a North-South freeway and offers a big win for Spokane County and Eastern Washington, says state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

“We’ve been talking about a North-South Freeway in Spokane since the 1940s,” Baumgartner said. “Finally we have a transportation agreement led by Eastern Washington that makes it a reality. This project has been on the drawing boards more than 60 years. It’s time for Spokane to cheer.”

Funding for the North-South freeway is part of a comprehensive Senate plan for highway construction and other projects, the first such package in a decade. The bipartisan agreement in the Senate also provides major reforms to improve the management and efficiency of transportation spending.

The package provides $861 million to complete the North-South Freeway, which will bypass North Division Street from Wandermere to Interstate 90. Right now the freeway stops just short of Francis Avenue. A previous $420 million proposal from the state House would have continued it almost to the Spokane River, but would have stopped before completing the final link to I-90.

Overall the Senate plan spends nearly $1 billion in Spokane County and provides a net return of $1.35 for every dollar Spokane sends to Olympia in the form of gas taxes and other fees.

“For too long the people of Eastern Washington have sent their hard-earned tax dollars to Western Washington and King County, and have gotten too little in return,” Baumgartner said. “This package makes Eastern Washington a winner, at long last.”

The Senate transportation package provides more than $2 billion for Eastern Washington and $922 million for Spokane County alone, substantially more than previous transportation packages. A 2003 package provided just $336.5 million for Spokane County and the 2005 package provided even less, just $113 million.

Baumgartner also noted the Senate transportation plan blocks Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to impose low carbon fuel standards and stipulates that no additional money be provided for Seattle’s troubled downtown “Bertha” tunnel project. The package of 11 bills approved by the Senate now moves to the House.