Voters could decide I-90 project

Post Falls to host open house on Greensferry overpass; bond vote mulled

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POST FALLS - Enough lobbying and coercing. The city and Urban Renewal Agency have seized control of the Greensferry Road project at Interstate 90 and its future may ultimately be up to voters.

POST FALLS - Enough lobbying and coercing.

The city and Urban Renewal Agency have seized control of the Greensferry Road project at Interstate 90 and its future may ultimately be up to voters.

The City Council and agency have agreed to take the fate of the future overpass or interchange into their own hands since there has been little movement under the state system due to funding woes.

"This will hopefully help to accomplish the project in the near term rather than the very distant future path that the project is currently upon," City Administrator Eric Keck said. "The bottom line for the city and agency is to ensure our own destiny."

It's the latest twist to the project that has been in the works about 15 years and comes when hope for seeing it become reality in the foreseeable future was fading. Proponents believe the project will improve traffic mobility from the south side of I-90 to the north side, ease congestion on current routes, help businesses and enhance emergency response.

An overpass and right of way acquisition are expected to cost at least $21 million. Early discussions have centered around a phased project that would start with an overpass, then add on- and off-ramps for a full interchange later as funding is available.

Keck said floating a general obligation bond to the voters, most likely in 2011, to help pay for construction will be bantered, pending a public open house on the project that will be held sometime this summer.

General obligation bonds create property taxes to fund construction and are generally paid over 20 years. The city's library was constructed that way. Two-thirds voter approval is needed for the bond to pass.

The East Post Falls Urban Renewal District also contemplates an overpass, so urban renewal funding would complement the bond. The district has eight years left to help fund the improvement.

"It will certainly take a team effort with the city and the URA working together to ensure that this project is constructed in a more timely and cost-effective manner than the current road that has been taken with its unknown financing vehicles and timeframes for construction," Keck said.

The city and the Urban Renewal Agency would like to see the project built within five years, shortening the likelihood of 15-20 years under state and federal control.

"While local funding and participation by the residents of Post Falls may bring a cost, the project and all its benefits would be lost if the city and agency do not take this on today," Keck said. "The residents will be given the option through the ballot box as to whether or not to support this."

Despite the city earlier providing $350,000 toward completing the Interchange Justification Report and Environmental Impact Statement and the URA paying $500,000 for preliminary engineering and pledging another $700,000 for final engineering, the project hasn't made the state's front burner for construction. The IJR and EIS are expected to be completed in June and consequently the Record of Decision in early November. The ROD allows the project to be built.

"Our community will continue to grow and we need additional mobility options today," Keck said. "What is required at this time for the success of our own community will be for the city to step up and create its own future. The issue will really be in the hands of the residents."

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