I-976 fallout puts brakes on several Spokane area transportation projects

I-976 fallout puts brakes on several Spokane area transportation projects

Initiative 976’s passing has forced the Washington State Department of Transportation to delay funding for several Spokane area transportation projects.

A release from WSDOT said Governor Jay Inslee directed WSDOT to postpone projects not yet underway across the state.

I-976, which was passed by Washington voters, caps most taxes paid through annual vehicle registration at $30 and largely restricts the authority of the state and local governments to add new taxes and fees.

In late November, a King County judge granted an injunction temporarily blocking the initiative from taking effect.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday asked the state Supreme Court to allow the tax cuts to take effect. The state argued that the voters’ wishes are being “stymied” by the judge’s decision to stop I-976 from taking effect while a legal fight over the initiative’s constitutionality pays out.

WSDOT estimates a $451 million loss to transportation accounts during the 2019-21 biennium as a result of the initiative. That means a halt to $90 million worth of transportation funding for projects across the greater Spokane area.

More than half of that funding, between $45-50 million, was slated for construction on a portion of the North Spokane Corridor, along US 395 from Sprague Avenue to the Spokane River.

Other deferred projects include:

$10-15 million for the Children of the Sun Trail along US 395 from the Spokane River to Columbia
$1-2 million for interchange and road improvements at I90/Barker to Harvard
$1-2 million for intersection improvements at I90/Barker
$2-3 million for the improvements to the westbound on-ramp at I90/Barker to Harvard
$3-4 million to add a lane to the Harvard Road Bridge near I90/Barker to Harvard
$5-10 million for reconstruction along I90/Medical Lake to Geiger Field

In addition to these, grants for several other local projects have been deferred, including:

$780,000 to rehabilitate the Spokane, Spangle and Palouse Railway tracks
$812,000 to rehabilitate the Washington Eastern Railway Tracks
$500,000 for the Spokane Airport Transload Facility

According to a release, WSDOT is assuming a delay of these projects for at least six months. All new grant funded project solicitations will also be on hold until WSDOT is given further direction by the legislature and governor.

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