Shea bill would provide funding for North-South Freeway


State lawmakers are considering a bill that would move Spokane’s North-South Freeway project to the top of the priority list for transportation funding in the “Special Category C Account.”

House Bill 1705, sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea, R-Mead, would provide nearly $70 million toward the project from funds that are currently set aside in the Category C Account for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and a Seattle-area project on I-405. The bill also would preserve about $14.4 million of Category C funding currently allocated to the North-South Freeway that’s not provided for in the governor’s 2009-11 transportation budget.

“Using Special Category C funding for the viaduct and Highway 405 goes beyond the intended use of that money, while the North-South Freeway is still left waiting for its share,” said Shea. “We need to bring the debate to the table about viable, long-term funding for our freeway. Currently, it just doesn’t appear that there’s any money available to get the project done, and, frankly, it’s on life support.”

The Special Category C Account was created by lawmakers in 1990 to help pay for transportation projects that could not be funded with available resources and required bonding. The account was funded with a three-quarters-of-a-cent share of the 23-cent portion of the state gas tax, and was to be utilized for the North-South Freeway, the First Avenue South Bridge in Seattle and Highway 18 projects.

“The Seattle-area projects were completed, but Spokane’s freeway, years later, still remains unfinished,” Shea lamented. “I don’t want to suggest that the funds were ‘raided,’ but Spokane-area citizens are paying their fair share of gas taxes, and have received very little return on their investment.”

Shea noted that completing the freeway is vital for the region’s public safety and  economic viability.

“Merely waiting and hoping for action won’t get the job done. Every year that goes by, Spokane loses out on economic development opportunities, the ability to move products efficiently is made more difficult, and drivers are inconvenienced by congestion on a partially built freeway,” he concluded.

House Bill 1705 was referred to the House Transportation Committee for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications