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Washington’s “North Spokane Corridor” Makes National List of Highway Boondoggles, Will Cost $1.5 Billion
Highway projects are notorious for wasting taxpayer dollars. Now, a new report by WashPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group identifies nine of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $30 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the proposed “North Spokane Corridor” in Spokane, Washington. In total, the plan would cost $1.5 billion to connect Interstate 90 to US Route 395.
“The money we spend today decides how we get around tomorrow,” said Elise Orlick, director of WashPIRG Foundation. “We need to start solving our transportation problems, from potholes to pollution, and not waste money on the type of highway projects that should be in our rearview mirror.”
The report finds that congestion benefits from this project would be small. The top listed benefit on the project is that it will shave around 10 minutes off the trip from I-90 to Wandermere, a suburban neighborhood in the northern section of Spokane. Critics suggest that the current amount of traffic could be carried by a smaller, not wider road, and one that, unlike a highway, has potential to be both walkable and bikeable.
The report also highlights Washington and Spokane’s other important transportation needs, including repairing roads and bridges and improving transit service. A whopping 67 percent of Washington roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 26 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. To make matters worse is Washington’s already growing and costly debt. In 2015, Washington already had $8.5 billion in highway debt, nine times more than in 2000. This, when combined with continued spending on questionable highway building, leaves very little money for needed road repairs.
“From 2008 to 2015, state highway debt more than doubled to $217 billion,” said Gideon Weissman, a Frontier Group analyst and report co-author. “We keep building new highways we don't need, and that hurts our ability to move toward a smart 21st century transportation system that works for all of us.”
The report recommends that states reexamine proposed highway expansion projects in light of changing transportation needs and instead invest in more effective solutions, such as road repair and transit expansion, that reduce the misplaced appetite for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects.
“We need to be smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars. Now and in the future, Washington should have less pollution, less gridlock and more public transit,” said Orlick. “ We have the tools to build a better transportation system. We just need to use them.”
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