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Ficus Replaces Bamboo At Bus Plaza $72,000 Cost Stays The Same, \But The Trees Are A Much Hardier Species

Bamboo is out and ficus is in at the Spokane Transit Authority’s downtown bus plaza, under construction at Riverside and Wall.

The estimated 36 ficus trees still will cost about $72,000, but they’re much hardier than bamboo, STA officials said Wednesday.

Members of the agency’s Plaza Steering Committee overseeing construction of the center met Wednesday.

They approved eight more change orders, bringing to 166 the total number of design revisions.

Officials said construction on the $20.6 million bus station is running smoothly now, although the project has been plagued with $2 million in cost overruns and delays.

“In terms of construction, it’s moving surprisingly quick,” STA Executive Director Allen Schweim said. “Changes are occurring almost daily inside the building.”

The two-story center, which will feature an atrium and a waterfall flanked by trees, is expected to open in June.

Three-quarters of the upstairs Italian tile has been laid in recent days, officials said.

“I still think it’s costing a lot of money, like a lot of people do, but it’s coming together,” said Steering Committee member Don Harmon.

STA Project Manager Art Thoma said the fullcanopied, 18- to 20-foot-tall ficus trees will result in less maintenance than the first choice of Florida bamboo.

Bamboo trees can die from vandalism or temperature fluctuations, such as when a door is left open in winter.

STA has signed a three-year maintenance contract with Spokane Plant Interiors at a cost of up to $136,000.

The transit center will be a hub for downtown buses and will shelter waiting passengers. It’s designed to unclog sidewalks along which buses now pick up riders.

Cash reserves built up from federal, state and local transportation funds are paying for the facility.

City Councilman Chris Anderson toured the facility Friday and gives it a “B” for functionality, “A+” for “bells and whistles” and an “F” for price.

“I can’t help but think we’ve gone overboard with some of the amenities that have driven the price up,” he said.