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New interchange hits road block

by Brian Walker
| April 27, 2010 9:00 PM

POST FALLS - Improvements to Greensferry Road at Interstate 90, which has topped the city's wish list to improve traffic mobility, now appears out of reach of becoming reality in the foreseeable future.

The city has learned that an overpass would cost an estimated $17.5 million if it's built in five to 10 years, the likely timeframe. Ramps for a full interchange, the desired plan, would run another $14 million and right of way costs $3.6 million.

The state has faced transportation funding woes for several years, but project proponents hoped urban renewal funding could spur construction as the East Post Falls Urban Renewal District contemplates an overpass in its plan.

However, the cost estimates likely have dampened those hopes, city administrator Eric Keck said.

"Due to the scope of the cost, the project is simply out of reach once you add in the right of way necessary," Keck said. "We can't touch that.

"A partnership with the (state) could be done, but they have just recently indicated that they will not have any funding to dedicate to the project given the current economic climate."

The project, referred to as the "I-90 Access Improvement Project," would need to have the preliminary and final engineering completed and right of way in place to become a "shovel-ready" project and first in line for funding.

"We are not at that point," Keck said.

Keck said the project is at a "critical crossroads" and that the city and URA may have taken the project as far as they can without funding support from the state or feds.

In an attempt to jumpstart the project or keep it on the front burner, the City Council already has $350,000 invested with the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement. The Urban Renewal Agency has invested $500,000 in the preliminary engineering and authorized $700,000 for the final engineering.

Those agencies will meet this morning at 7 at City Hall to discuss the future of the project.

"Policy decisions are going to be made on whether or not to continue funding a project that will still not be shovel ready at the end of the day," Keck said. "It's time to fish or cut bait."

"Unfortunately, if the city and the URA do not continue to carry the project, the interchange will receive federal approval, but will not be able to be constructed due to funding availability issues."

A Record of Decision (ROD) on the project, which authorizes construction, is expected in November, but insufficient funds will likely delay work.

Another I-90 interchange project at Post Falls, at Beck Road near Cabela's, is still being evaluated by the Federal Highway Administration for justification. A construction schedule is unclear until federal approval.

The project will be funded by Foursquare Properties, the developer of the Pointe at Post Falls anchored by Cabela's. Foursquare will be paid back from the sales tax collected from the businesses within the development.

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