September 20, 2010 in City

Getting There: Bus line links Spokane to northern neighbors

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Laura Armstrong, Gold Line van driver, checks the route schedule before departing from the STA Plaza area last week.
(Full-size photo)

Folks living along the U.S. Highway 395 corridor north of Spokane are going to get a new choice for transportation.

The state of Washington has launched bus service between Kettle Falls and three locations in Spokane through a private operator.

The Gold Line bus runs twice daily on round trips beginning in Kettle Falls at 7:30 a.m. with stops in Colville, Arden, Addy, Chewelah, Loon Lake, Deer Park and Spokane.

The bus line was named after the region’s mining history.

It is the fourth intercity bus line started by the state Department of Transportation in the past three years.

The goal is to link people in rural areas with hubs for rail, bus and airline service.

Elsewhere, the Walla Walla Valley has the Grape Line, north-central Washington has the Apple Line and the Olympic Peninsula has the Dungeness Line.

The Colville Valley has not had intercity bus service since the 1980s.

So far, only a handful of riders have boarded the new 27-seat Chevrolet vans, which are handicapped accessible. Driver Laura Armstrong reported that she had one passenger going to Spokane one morning last week.

“It’s something that’s going to take a little bit of time before people recognize it’s there,” said Steve Abernathy, program manager for DOT.

The Grape Line started with only a handful of riders, but last month had 746 paying fares, Abernathy said. It was the first of the four lines by DOT.

Gold Line fares run from $5 to $25 one way depending on the length of the ride.

The state has arranged partnerships with Greyhound and Amtrak so that riders can purchase single “through-fare” tickets to any destination in the U.S.

The buses have secure baggage compartments and stop at the Spokane Intermodal Center, Spokane Transit Authority Plaza and Spokane International Airport. The buses also have bicycle racks.

Abernathy said Washington was the first state to initiate the rural bus services as a federally funded pilot program. Other states are now joining Washington, he said.

The state spent $155,000 on each of three vans and will reimburse its contractor on operating costs not met by fare collections. Subsidies are running about 30 to 40 percent of the total cost on the other three lines.

Central Washington Airporter, a company based in Ferndale, Wash., won a two-year, $744,000 contract to operate the service, which began Sept. 8.

Gold Line tickets are available online at www.gold-line.us/ or at the Kettle Falls Visitor Center, Rural Resources in Colville, Yoke’s supermarket in Deer Park and the Spokane Intermodal Center.

“We’ve got great support from the local community up there,” Abernathy said.

Extra patrols get results

The recently completed “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed” enforcement effort in Spokane County resulted in arrests of 119 motorists for driving under the influence, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Local law enforcement agencies and the Washington State Patrol joined forces to mount extra patrols from Aug. 12 through Sept. 6 as part of a statewide effort to reduce deaths caused by impaired driving. In 2009, 264 of the 491 traffic deaths statewide involved an impaired driver.

The number of deaths involving impaired driving was down by nine last year over the average of the previous five years.

Work to watch for

• A Spokane project to rebuild Nevada Street from North Foothills Drive to Broad Avenue is expected to be finished by the middle of the week, reopening a major North Side arterial.

• Drivers headed west on Interstate 90 at the Idaho state line may encounter slow traffic and delays. The freeway is being reduced to one lane adjacent to the state’s port of entry until Thursday. Traffic was backed up Friday and the delay was 20 minutes, one driver said.

• Division Street at Wellesley Avenue is being reduced to two through-lanes in each direction and left turns are being prohibited between Longfellow and Queen avenues.

In addition, Wellesley Avenue is closed for crossing at Division.

According to DOT, “This is a long-term closure for up to 22 days and the traffic pattern will change several times.”

The intersection is being repaved with concrete.

It is the beginning of a larger project to repave Division from Euclid to Francis avenues next spring, said Al Gilson, DOT spokesman in Spokane.

• Wandermere Road at U.S. 395 will be closed from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. tonight, Tuesday night and Wednesday night to allow for work on the North Spokane Corridor.

• State Highway 27 near Tekoa is being closed to traffic for the next six weeks as part of a project to replace the bridge at Pine Creek and create a section of highway that will not be prone to flooding. A detour is in place on Warner and Tekoa-Farmington roads. Motorists headed to Washington State University football games may find the trip takes longer than normal because of the detour.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email