Good things come to those who wait

What’s next for the North Spokane Corridor

By Ryan Overton

Over the past two weeks, we’ve told you about the history of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC), and where the project is at today. Now it’s time to prepare for what’s to come, including its completion! 

We know, we know. We’ve heard plenty of people say it will never get finished. But it will. And sooner than you probably think.

Picking up momentum
Think of the NSC like the Tortoise and the Hare. It has been 18 years since it first broke ground in 2001. It took 11 years to open the first 5½ miles to traffic and since then, we haven’t opened any new roadway as part of the project. That’s the tortoise part, but remember, the tortoise wins in the end. While seven years have passed since a new stretch of highway opened, work has been consistently moving forward with small projects waiting for funding.

Last week we mentioned the missing puzzle piece – the second Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad realignment – which will open the flood gates to new projects and start a chain reaction to finish the NSC. Now it’s time to talk about how we will finish.
A 3-D rendering look at the North Spokane Corridor looking west over Spokane Community College.

2020 will be a big year
Once the tracks are moved, a flurry of new NSC projects will start in 2020. The Connecting Washington transportation package provided $879 million in funding to finish the NSC. In the next two years, $100 million will be spent on new projects for the NSC, the largest two-year expenditure ever for construction on the project.

This includes the Wellesley interchange project, which will include two roundabouts for both the north and south on- and off-ramps for the NSC at Wellesley Avenue. There will also be a new bridge over Wellesley to carry NSC traffic. Finally, working with the City of Spokane, Wellesley at Market and Haven streets will get a makeover to carry the expected increase in traffic in the Hillyard neighborhood once the freeway is open.

The next big project in 2020 will be another paving project, from Columbia St. south to Carlisle Ave., about 400 feet shy of the Spokane River. This will include a bridge over Euclid Ave.
A 3-D rendering look at the North Spokane Corridor at the new Wellesley interchange looking north.

The last and most exciting project in 2020 will be construction of the first portion of the NSC south of the Spokane River. Yes, people, it is really happening! The skyway portion of the NSC from Mission to Ermina will start construction next year, meaning portions of Spokane Community College’s parking lot will be under construction.

All three projects starting in 2020 will take two construction seasons to finish, but we aren’t stopping there.

Then what?
Once we reach 2021, another $150 million in construction funds becomes available. That means construction of the NSC Bridge over the Spokane River begins and the NSC from Ermina to Carlisle will be completed. In 2022, the second skyway portion of the NSC from Mission down to Sprague Ave. – including the Trent interchange – will begin.

The last and most complex part of finishing the NSC will kick off in 2023. This will be the tie into I-90. It’s quite a challenge and will take a lot of time as there are unique construction staging and phasing work that has to be done.

We’ll need to move portions of 2nd, 3rd and 4th avenues that run parallel to I-90. There will be a total of 17 new bridges constructed and new on- and off-ramps along the NSC to finish the tie into I-90. The new ramps to enter and exit the NSC will extend over a mile both east and west along I-90.

So when will the entire NSC be completed? In 2029. Yes, the final project is scheduled to take six years to complete and, again, it comes down to funding. The NSC will only receive so much in funding every two years. Between that and winter weather-related shutdowns, it will take time. But the finish line is within view and remember, the best things come to those who wait.


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