Smokers outside the Spokane Transit Authority bus station downtown are going to have to take a hike from now on.
STA over the weekend removed the Plaza’s small designated smoking area on the east side of the facility along Wall Street.
Work starts today on major improvements to Wall to turn it from a one-way northbound into a two-way street from Riverside to Third avenues.
Changes to the sidewalks and curbs will allow for more efficient loading and unloading for buses. But the changes have eliminated the heavily used smoking area.
Smoking is not otherwise allowed on the Plaza sidewalks, and the rules are enforced.
“I think it’s stupid,” said bus rider Kristina Ravencroft, one of about a dozen smokers enjoying cigarettes at the smoking area last week.
She said forcing smokers to leave the Plaza area will cause problems. “It’s going to make it harder for us to make our buses,” she said.
Karl Otterstrom, planning director for STA, said the agency consulted with downtown businesses and gained support for the changes even though it may mean smokers will seek other places to light up nearby.
He said the changes on Wall Street will allow the No. 1 Plaza/Arena shuttle and the No. 2 South Side Medical shuttle to operate as through routes on Wall instead of turning around at the Plaza. That will shave two minutes in travel time, Otterstrom said.
In addition, pedestrian traffic along Wall will not be impeded by congestion from riders and smokers.
The $484,000 construction project is expected to be finished by October under a state grant obtained by STA for improved mobility. Funding includes money to install new traffic signals for two-way traffic.
The changes were recommended in both the city’s downtown master plan and downtown traffic plan.
A new bus shelter is going to be installed on the east sidewalk across Wall from the Plaza.
A second phase of work is planned for sidewalk improvements and pedestrian amenities at loading areas.
During construction, some of the bus loading zones have been moved to temporary locations.
Staff from the Spokane Regional Health District will be at the Plaza for the next two weeks supplying information about quitting smoking.
Susan Meyer, chief executive officer of STA, said she hopes that the transition can be made without officers having to issue any infractions for smoking.
Curbs to boost student safety
Work got started last week on installation of extended sidewalk curbs, handicap ramps and new striping on 17th Avenue at Franklin Elementary School. The “bump-out” curbs at Mount Vernon and in front of the school will shorten the distance for crossing the street, which increases safety for children, city officials said.
The $101,000 project is being funded with proceeds from the city’s red-light photo enforcement program.
Online input sought
The Washington State Transportation Commission is still seeking citizens to participate in a “Voice of Washington State” forum for northeast Washington transportation needs.
The commission has created seven regional online discussion forums and an online survey panel. The one for northeast Washington has not had enough participation, commission staff said.
To participate, go to voiceofwashingtonstate.org.
Water line work closing roads
A water line installation starting today on Eighth and Ninth avenues near Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center will force closure of Ninth from Division to Cowley streets and Cowley from Eighth to Ninth.
Foster will provide railroad ties
L.B. Foster Co. announced last week that it won a contract to provide 11,000 concrete railroad ties for a refinery unloading facility at Anacortes, Wash.
The rail ties will be built with what the company calls the rail industry’s most advanced concrete tie manufacturing technology at its plant in Spokane Valley.
The Tesoro refinery at March Point is upgrading its plant to handle deliveries of Bakken shale oil delivered by train from North Dakota.
Dartford Road from Wandermere to Mill roads will be closed for construction starting on Tuesday. Chip sealing is under way along roads near Wandermere and Little Spokane River. Also, Bigelow Gulch Road will be closed to through traffic Tuesday through Thursday from Argonne to Forker roads for maintenance work.
Highway 95 paving work
Paving work is planned for today from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on U.S. Highway 95 from Chilco to Silverwood. Traffic crossing the highway on Chilco Road will see significant delays. Paving should be finished by Thursday.
Coal terminal plan dropped
Environmentalists last week were happy with news that Rail America had dropped plans to build a coal export terminal at Grays Harbor. The decision will reduce the potential number of coal trains that might have gone through Spokane as Asian coal exports increase, they said.