Bill would open up left-over Spokane freeway land for lease
Spokane officials are keeping an eye on Senate Bill 5853. If enacted, it would allow public land not needed for a major freeway project to be leased for housing, trails or projects that spur economic development.
“This is a very Spokane-specific bill that doesn’t look like it affects anyone else in the state,” said County Commission Chair Josh Kerns after Monday’s briefing by lobbyist Mike Burgess.
Kerns noted that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) was slated by language in the bill to use the rent or lease revenue from the property for work done in the local area.
“That’s a good thing and I can support it,” he said.
SB 5853 specifies that WSDOT make excess land it purchased as part of the North Spokane Corridor project available to the city of Spokane or a community-based nonprofit. The size of the parcel that could be available was not specified in the measure.
The bill directs that surplus property is to be used for “community purposes made unavailable due to the placement of the highway,” but Kern noted that there seemed to be a great amount of flexibility in the list of potential uses, which also include any type of economic revitalization.
The North Spokane Corridor project involves 10.5 miles of freeway, with 5.42 miles complete from Francis Avenue to US Route 395.
The southern half is not expected to be completed until 2029, although Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, is pushing to speed up the timeline.
When the project is complete, Interstate 90 will be connected to the south with US Route 2 at Farwell Road and US Route 395 at Wandermere to the north.
The $2.2 billion project is intended to improve freight and commuter movement through the Spokane metropolitan areas, bypassing the busy Division Street corridor.
When completed, that section of freeway will have a 60 mile-per-hour speed limit and, in addition to general travel lanes, will have a right-of-way reserved for a future high-capacity transit system with park-and-ride lots. In addition, a pedestrian and bicycle trail will run the entire length of the corridor.
WSDOT projects that, when completed, the corridor will carry more than 150,000 vehicles per day.
Commissioner Al French said at the Jan. 31 county meeting that he supported the bill, but had one concern.
“It doesn’t address the issue of social equity,” he said.
French did not think it would be right to use land sited next to a noisy freeway for an affordable housing development.
“If I wouldn’t want to live there, why would I want somebody else to live there?” he asked. “This is not going to be a prime location for housing.”
French said he could support businesses constructed along the freeway as a buffer to residential development.
Burgess told the commissioners that he would report back on movement of SB 5853, as well as other pieces of legislation they were watching.
This article was originally posted on Bill would open up left-over Spokane freeway land for lease