Spokane Corridor Stalled by Cost Analysis

Tue September 19, 2006 - West Edition
David S. Chartock

Come October, experts will conduct a week-long financial analysis to establish new costs for the U.S. 395-North Spokane Corridor project that began in the spring of 2001.

According to Larry Larson, project engineer of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the project’s cost in 2004 was $2.2 billion. But a new analysis is now required “because we are experiencing cost escalations due to the price of concrete and steel as well as overall general construction costs.”

Larson said the industry experts will use a software model to come up with a variety of figures based on a percent of risk to the WSDOT.

The 10-mi.-long (16.1 km) project runs from I-90 to the north end of Spokane at Wandermere.

The project is “a new, limited access freeway with four lanes on the north side and eight lanes on the south side. It will taper from eight lanes at I-90 down to four lanes at Wandermere,” he added.

The “standard” freeway will feature concrete pavement, more than a dozen bridges, 16 interchanges, and a 1.5-mi. (2.4-km), eight-lane-wide pre-stressed concrete viaduct.

The nine-phase, sequenced project “addresses the need for a major improvement to allow motorists and freight to move through metropolitan Spokane along the corridor,” Larson explained. “The needs of the corridor are indicated by increasing congestion and other operational and safety issues on the existing street network.”

“The project will provide a facility for balanced transportation, including park and ride lots to support transit and van-pooling operations, as well as an expanded and enhanced pedestrian/bicycle facility. The right-of-way will also be reserved for possible light rail use,” he added.

The project’s first phase began with the completion, after six years, of the Final Environmental Impact Statement in April 1997. By the summer of 2000, the Limited Access and Right-of-Way plans and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

On Aug. 22, 2001 construction began on the project’s first construction element, which consisted of a grading and drainage contract. This contract went from Parksmith Drive to U.S. 2 and was completed in July 2002.

In July 2003 $189 million was appropriated through a nickel increase in the gasoline tax. This money is slated to be used to build Francis Avenue to Farwell Road, U.S. 2 to Wandermere, and U.S. 2 to Lowering.

Continuing, Larson said, $152 million was allocated from the Transportation Partnership package for the North Spokane Corridor.

He noted that Max J. Kuney Co. of Spokane is the general contractor of a $17.2-million part of the project and KLB of Lynnwood, WA, was the general contractor for the earthwork portion of the project.

Larson said the project’s biggest challenge has and continues to be financing.

“The project has been financed with state funding. We need federal funding and continue to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation for it,” he added, explaining that WSDOT “has received a small amount of funding from federal funds which have allowed environmental impact studies to be conducted and maintained.”

Related to the need for financing, he said, is the “cost escalation of real estate and construction costs. Spokane is a rising market which affects land purchases.”

Larson noted that “the use of eminent domain requires paying fair market value and the fair market value of real estate, land and construction is increasing.”

Community outreach also is a large part of the project. Larson said WSDOT has and continues to work with communities to incorporate architectural themes that emulate the neighborhoods through which the project passes.

The project passes through nine neighborhoods and the project team was recognized by the Hillyard/Whitman Neighborhood Council “for listening to and addressing the concerns of the neighborhood during the design process.”

Larson said the project’s completion will be based on funding and that funding requirements will be determined by the industry experts, whose analysis and report is expected to be delivered to WSDOT by late November. CEG

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