June 21, 2010 in City

Spokane, STA want input on transit alternative

By The Spokesman-Review
 
If you go
A public open house on the possibility of a streetcar system downtown is set for June 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Arena Champions Room, 720 W. Mallon Ave.

Building a streetcar line in downtown Spokane is getting serious consideration.

The Spokane Transit Authority wants the public’s help in deciding where a line would go and what kind of vehicles would be used.

A public open house on the subject is set for June 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Champions Room, 720 W. Mallon Ave., next to administrative offices for the Spokane Arena.

Officials want input in choosing a “locally preferred option” for a streetcar system, which would give Spokane an advantage in competing for future federal grants, said Susan Meyer, STA’s chief executive officer.

“The important thing is, where do people want it to go?” Meyer said.

The city of Spokane and STA are teaming up through a $367,000 grant from state and federal sources, part of which is going for a consultant, CH2M Hill.

So far, the discussion has involved key community leaders and property owners, but Meyer said STA is ready to broaden the talks to a public that would be asked to help pay for the project.

Those involved in the effort have identified potential corridors to link downtown Spokane with medical campuses, county government, recreational facilities, the University District or nearby neighborhoods.

But the planning is coming at a time when STA is cutting existing operations because of a decline in tax revenue. A 2 percent cut in bus service will take place in September, to be followed by 7 percent cuts each in 2011 and 2012.

Meyer said economic recovery will create an opportunity for new investment in transportation.

However, that may require increased tax collections to pay for the city’s share of costs. One idea is to form a taxing district of properties that would benefit directly from any new system.

The line could run with diesel buses built to provide a streetcar-like service, electric trolleys operating on overhead wires, or as a light rail system.

Rail is vastly more expensive than the other options, at $20 million or more per mile. Electric trolleys cost about $2 million per mile.

The possibility of having a north-south connector through Riverfront Park has been eliminated after an earlier study showed that the two southernmost bridges on the Howard Street corridor through the park are not strong enough to allow trolleys or buses.

The current planning effort is known as the “downtown Spokane transit alternatives analysis.”

Freeway open house

An open house to update the public on north-south freeway progress will be held Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.

Engineering and real estate staff will be on hand to answer questions about the 10-mile long project from Wandermere to Interstate 90.

Nevada project starts

Construction starts today on Nevada Street from North Foothills Drive to Providence Avenue. The street will be closed to traffic during the $2.1 million rebuilding process, which is being financed through a 2004 voter-approved street bond. The job includes sewer upgrades, too.

Crestline and Division streets are the best alternate routes.

In another bond issue project, Addison and Standard streets from Francis Avenue to Colton Street will close today for a $1.7 million renovation.

Elsewhere in the city, the new Freya Street Bridge will have lane restrictions this week to allow for finish work on a traffic barrier.

Barker Bridge open

Traffic is now flowing over the Barker Road Bridge even as workers complete construction on the east side of the new span. A 20 mph speed limit will be posted.

The Centennial Trail remains closed beneath the bridge. Passage on the river is open, although a takeout on the north bank next to the bridge is closed.

195 work nearly done

Motorists on U.S. Highway 195 through Latah Valley will discover that construction work in the northbound lanes has largely been completed and that only a few short-term lane closures remain.

Rail symposium

Three national experts on rail transportation are going to be in Spokane on Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m. for a symposium on moving freight by rail, the need for rail service in a global economy, and the significance of rail to the Inland Northwest. The event, sponsored by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, will be held in the theater at the Spokane Convention Center.

The experts involved are Arthur Shoener, Avery Grimes and John Fricker.

Projects delayed

Intersection improvements at Sullivan Road and Sprague Avenue and on Broadway Avenue east of Sullivan are being postponed until later in the construction season.

The $1.26 million renovation of the Sprague and Sullivan intersection was supposed to start in June, but will now begin in late July, Spokane Valley officials said. The intersection will close for three weeks during the work.

The $2.76 million widening of Broadway Avenue from Moore Lane to Flora Road won’t start until mid-August, after the Sullivan project is finished. That job should be finished in October.


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