Washington Program to Rehabilitate Communities Damaged by Sandy Williams Transportation Projects

OLYMPIA — Sandy Williams is being honored by the renaming of a statewide grant program that funds bike and pedestrian paths near current and former state highways in recognition of the late Spokane activist’s work to reconnect East Central neighborhoods after the construction of Interstate 90.

Williams advocated for the revival of the East Central, which was bisected by the freeway in the late 1950s, and for helping communities recover from damage caused by transportation projects.

Williams died last September in a floatplane crash off Whidbey Island that killed nine others, including her partner Patricia Hicks.

“Sandy’s death is a loss to Spokane, a loss to our state and a loss to the greater community,” Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, R-Spokane, said Wednesday.

The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, makes mostly technical changes to a 16-year-old transportation package passed by the Legislature last year with investments in roads, highways, transit, and walking and biking trails across the state.

One change was the renaming of the Connecting Communities Pilot Program to the Sandy Williams Connecting Communities Program. The five-year, $50 million program makes statewide investments in pedestrian and bicycle paths across current and former state highways.

In the first year of the program, the Department of Transportation is requesting $12 million in funding for 12 projects across the state, including $2 million for transportation improvements along US 2 in Airway Heights.

Projects should be implemented in places where communities face multiple environmental harms and impacts or have populations at greater risk of poor health.

The grant program was built on the work done by Williams and other community leaders in Spokane to address the historic injustice that resulted from the construction of the I-90 freeway in Spokane, Sen. Marco Lias, Dr. Everett, said on the floor.

Williams channeled her passion and energy into healing the black community from the divisiveness it faced after the construction of I-90, he added.

“This bill names this program in Sandy’s honor so that her legacy and the memory of her incredible service, not only in Spokane, but in the statewide conversation about equity, lives on long after we’re here,” Lias said.

Williams also championed a proposal passed by the Legislature last year that would allow the Department of Transportation to lease unused land around I-90 and the North Spokane Corridor, which cuts East Central in half, back to communities that can use it for affordable housing. new businesses or parks.

At the time, she said the bill would help provide pathways to home ownership, help the community build a thriving business ecosystem, create new green space and help repair historic damage to the neighborhood.

Both the Connecting Communities grant program and the Department of Transportation’s land lease work toward Williams’ goal of helping communities recover from these projects, Billig wrote in the text.

“Sandy has been an inspiration not only to the work of Connecting Communities, but to me and to many in Spokane on issues related to transportation equity and in many other ways,” Billig said in a speech Wednesday.

Laurel Demkovic’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and members of the Spokane community. This story may be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. Additional information about this can be obtained from the editor-in-chief of our newspaper.

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