This item about the North Spokane Corridor was in an email newsletter I received from the Washington State Department of Transportation today:

The first drivable segment of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) has been open to traffic for about six weeks and we at WSDOT are pleased with the operation and the mostly positive comments from the community. We have heard some negative feedback about the seemingly few cars on the NSC, mostly from the media as they watch the traffic camera feeds.

In reality, about 4,000 vehicles per day travel the 3.7 mile route and, while it may seem that there is not a lot of usage now, we expect those numbers to climb as we continue construction and open the next section in a little over a year.

We are seeing a fairly substantial percentage of truck traffic on the NSC with about 8.5% on the northbound side and 14% headed southbound.

Several factors affect traffic volumes on this section. With only 3 ½ miles open, there is a limited number of destinations it serves. When the next phase opens, connecting to US 2 and US 395, the traffic should increase substantially.

Another factor affecting NSC usage is construction in the Freya Street/Market Street/Greene Street corridor. The Freya Street Bridge over the BNSF Railroad main line is fully closed. This is sending the through truck traffic over to Division Street, the only other legal north/south truck route in the City of Spokane. In addition, the City has a major construction project underway in Hillyard.

When we opened the Freya/Francis to Farwell Road segment with one lane in each direction, we knew this was an interim step. Two-way traffic is flowing on what will be the northbound side of the full freeway when funding is obtained. We have applied for a TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) grant for the southbound lane work and are hopeful the project will be selected, enabling us to add those southbound lanes for a fully divided highway.

The section from Farwell Road to the existing US 395 is fully funded for both northbound and southbound traffic. Construction is underway now on two contracts that will be completed in 2011. Bridge piers for the big NSC/US 2 interchange are climbing out of the ground and motorists on US 395 near Wandermere are seeing the first construction activity on the bridges that will tie the two highways together.

It’s important to note that the NSC will be opened in segments as funding becomes available. This is the same strategy used during the construction of I90 from 1953 through the 1970’s and even into the 1980’s. In took a series of contracts to build that freeway through the Spokane area, and sections opened as they were completed.

The WSDOT is also looking at the next major portion of the corridor, the section from Francis Avenue to the Spokane River. Earlier this year the Legislature allocated $28 million to get things started. When additional right of way and construction dollars become available, we’ll be ready to turn dirt.

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