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Spokane Valley asks McMorris Rodgers for millions for rail crossings, roads, trails

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, told the Spokane Valley Council this week that the current tough times in America had created a need for “hope and healing.” She indicated the city was pursuing projects that did just that because they increased public safety and encouraged economic development.

“What you are doing here really make a difference for a lot of people,” she said at the Feb. 24 special meeting at city hall.

McMorris Rodgers was thanked by the council for her efforts to obtain federal funding to make projects happen in the past, and asked to push for millions more in federal transportation funds to complete five priority projects.

Topping the list was the Pines Road/Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Grade Separation Project, for a total cost of $34 million.

The city was seeking $24.3 million to remove a transcontinental rail line at-grade crossing at Pine Road, one of Spokane Valley’s busiest streets.

Eliminating the crossing adjacent to the intersection of Pines Road and Trent Avenue that serves 35,000 vehicles per day was critical to vehicle and pedestrian safety, city officials said.

An average of 60 freight trains and two Amtrak passenger trains traveled through the crossing each day, resulting in nearly 28,000 vehicle hours of delay each year, the council reported. From 2015 to 2019, there were 46 collisions in or near the intersection.

City officials told McMorris Rodgers that a planned second track was likely to make the situation even worse,

The grade separation project includes construction of an underpass and a new roundabout at the intersection. In conjunction with a grade separation project underway at the nearby Barker Road/BNSF crossing, the project would eliminate three of the city’s at-grade crossings (Barker, Flora and Pines), reported officials.

They said completion of the project would also improve access to 170 acres of nearby mixed-use or commercially zoned property, and 56 acres of prime industrial lands that were currently undeveloped.

The end result of completing the project is that lives would be saved and thousands of new jobs created, which would bring in more tax revenue for the city and state, was the council’s pitch to the congresswoman.

“I know it’s been a ton of work to get to this place and it’s really important when we think about people and goods,” said McMorris Rodgers.

She agreed to connect city leaders with federal Department of Transportation officials that could help with planning and funding.

“That’s going to be my goal,” she said.

The conversation then turned to the Bigelow Gulch—Sullivan Corridor project, a multi-agency effort, that will cost a total of $75.4 million.

The city is asking for $26.6 million to help improve public safety along the corridor. It has a deadly crash history due to congestion, absence of passing lanes, poor sight lines, steep grades, sharp curves and a poorly operating interchange at State Route 290.

The fix, said councilors, was to reconstruct the narrow passage from two to four lanes, install cameras and signs, and to reconstruct the SR 290 interchange.

With that work done, the corridor will serve as a safe and efficient alternate route to Interstate 90, linking more than 1,100 acres of the region’s largest industrial centers, explained city officials.

“This is another important one, they all are,” said McMorris Rodgers of that project and the $18.8 million Barker Road corridor reconstruction in an area experiencing rapid industrial and residential growth.

The city is seeking $12.9 million to reconstruct the intersection of South Barker Road and Sprague Avenue with a single lane roundabout. The city also wants to widen and improve the road to create a five-lane urban roadway section from I-90 to Appleway Avenue.

That would provide greater access to more than 800 acres of industrial property and 220 acres of homes, said city officials.

Fourth on the priority list was the $8.7 million request to round out a $14 million project that would expand the Fair and Expo Center to help attract new exhibitions and special events.

The city of Spokane Valley and the county, which owns the land, want to construct a new 32,300-square-foot conference building to create additional space and versatility that is expected to generate $3.9 million in new visitor spending annually.

The center sits on 97 acres along Spokane Valley’s western border. The expanded space will include conference rooms, a full-service restaurant, administrative and ticket sales office, among other amenities.

Last in the top five of funding requests was the $16.5 million Spokane Valley River Loop Trail project. The city’s plan is to construct a paved non-motorized trail along the Spokane River’s north bank that would connect Plante’s Ferry Sports Complex to city property on Flora Road. Two pedestrian bridges would be installed, linking to the Centennial Trail.

The project is supposed to provide recreational opportunities for residents and draw visitors to kayak, raft and otherwise enjoy the scenic setting.

“That’s an exciting project,” said McMorris Rodgers.

She was asked by the council to seek more flexibility in how American Rescue Plan dollars could be spent so that Spokane Vally and other cities could use the money toward infrastructure projects such as those addressed, instead of on water, sewer and broadband needs.

“That’s going to be a heavy lift at this point because the funds have been allocated,” she said.

McMorris Rodgers urged the city to continue advocating for more local control of how federal dollars were spent. She said the combined voices of municipalities, counties and schools was likely to bring about greater flexibility in spending options in the future.

This article was originally posted on Spokane Valley asks McMorris Rodgers for millions for rail crossings, roads, trails

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