Work has started on a new West Plains Transit Center that will provide better bus service across that portion of the county.
The $10 million project will make it easier for passengers to move among the cities and neighborhoods on the West Plains.
It has long been a goal of leaders in those communities.
In a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove said the center is one of the big ideas included in a plan approved by voters last fall to expand transit service.
The center will be located on the southwest side of the 272 Medical Lake interchange on Interstate 90 where new businesses have been springing up in recent years.
“It brings transit to the growing industrial complex out here,” Trulove said.
He pointed out that West Plains communities provided the highest percentage of “yes” votes last fall to adopt two sales tax increases of a tenth of a penny to finance transit improvements.
The center is being funded by a mix of state and federal grants as well as STA’s local contribution to the project.
The center will have three bus bays and three heated waiting shelters. Drivers of electric vehicles can charge up at one of four charging stations. The center will be wired for real-time bus information and for security monitoring.
The park-and-ride lot adjacent to the center will have 200 vehicle spaces.
Vending machines will accept fares and issue passes.
Halme Construction of Spokane won a $4 million contract last month for the work as one of three bidders.
Construction is expected to be completed next year.
The state Department of Transportation is in the middle of planning major improvements to the interchange, which will include a roundabout and dedicated bus lanes on the south side of I-90.
That work is not expected until 2020.
Buses currently do not serve the growing area at the interchange.
Brad Gile, logistics center manager for Caterpillar, said his 170 workers will be able to take advantage of new transit service.
Linda Gehrke, the regional administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, said the project demonstrates a strong partnership among local, state and federal entities.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French, who sits on the STA board, told the groundbreaking gathering, “What a great day. This is the culmination of a lot of work.”
He said he sees transit service as a key to economic development. “If your workers can’t get to work, you don’t have workers,” he said in an interview.
The plan calls for using the center to connect Airway Heights, Medical Lake, Cheney and Fairchild Air Force Base to one another, rather than forcing riders to go to downtown to the Plaza and transfer to other buses to go to those communities.
Eventually, STA is going to upgrade Cheney service to make it operate more efficiently in what it calls “high performance transit” which will use off-bus ticketing.
Earlier this year, STA inaugurated a new bus route in Spokane Valley and increased Saturday evening service on many other routes in the first stages of implementing the Moving Forward package.
STA is also moving ahead with plans for a Central City Line from Browne’s Addition to Spokane Community College by way of downtown, the University District and Gonzaga University.
Federal funding may be available to pay a large share of construction of that line.
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