Mass transit systems are going to become increasingly important in U.S. cities over the next 50 years and Spokane would be smart to begin investing in improvements now, a transit expert said here last week.
John Inglish, chief executive officer of the Utah Transit Authority, told a gathering that “this is the time to start making decisions and moving forward.”
The Salt Lake City metropolitan area is currently building $3 billion in improvements to its rail and bus rapid transit system after the first light rail line opened there in 1999.
Inglish said that Spokane Transit Authority, in conjunction with the city of Spokane, is taking the right steps in planning for a high-performance transit line in the downtown area.
“You have taken risks before,” he said. “We are in a time of taking risks.”
The public needs to understand why it is worth investing in transit, Inglish said.
Reducing dependence on foreign oil, easing global warming, protecting air quality, improving national security, reducing congestion and boosting the economy are among the reasons, he said.
Utah’s system is attracting private investment for development projects around transit stations, and a survey shows that transit enjoys 90 percent public support, Inglish said.
The system’s layout relies on integrated land-use planning that seeks to curtail urban sprawl and attract new development to transit stops.
The mainstay riders of any transit line are workers and college students as well as people attending large events, making transit part of the larger economic picture.
“We’ve seen a change in people’s desires, so it’s not forcing anything on anyone,” Inglish said.
Examples of innovative transportation systems are showing up globally, and the U.S. is on the road to joining the trend, he said.
Vienna, Austria, has a rubber-tire trolley line that would make sense in a city like Spokane, Inglish said.
Susan Meyer, Spokane Transit Authority chief executive officer, has said that she wants the community to consider a rubber-tire trolley for a downtown line running from Browne’s Addition to Gonzaga University.
In addition, STA is working on plans to create a layered approach of high-performance transit combined with existing neighborhood routes.
Projects get going
Two more large road construction projects begin today in Spokane: pavement grinding and repair of Interstate 90 west of the Maple Street on-ramp, and resurfacing of worn and rutted pavement on Division Street from Euclid to Francis avenues.
The I-90 project will begin with placement of a temporary concrete barrier, which will reduce the freeway to two lanes in each direction.
“Drivers should expect slow traffic, congestion and possible delays, and need to allow extra travel time in this five-mile section,” according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The job involves grinding concrete pavement to remove ruts caused by studded tires, along with repair of cracked concrete panels and panel joints. Also, the Latah Creek bridges will be resurfaced in the $7.8 million project under contract with Acme Concrete Paving Inc.
Work is expected to run through this fall and be completed in 2012.
The Division Street resurfacing will involve grinding off the existing top layer and replacing it with a new layer of asphalt. Northbound traffic may be confined to two lanes during daytime hours and southbound traffic may see intermittent restrictions.
Most of the work will occur during evening and overnight hours to minimize traffic delays.
The $3.6 million job is under contract to Inland Asphalt Co., of Spokane.
• Elsewhere, the multiyear job to widen and improve I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass has resumed. That project will bring temporary traffic stoppages for blasting starting later this spring as well as other potential delays.
In addition, a separate project has resumed to replace the concrete surface of the right eastbound lane of I-90 from Easton to the Cle Elum River.
For more information, go to wsdot.wa.gov/ projects/i90/.
• On U.S. Highway 395, work will begin today to resurface a 22-mile segment of the southbound lanes from Ritzville to Lee Road.
Drivers can expect single-lane traffic through the construction zone over the next 12 weeks.
Central Washington Asphalt, of Moses Lake, is the contractor on the $6.5 million project.