A new West Plains transit center at the state Highway 902 exit along Interstate 90 is a key component in Spokane Transit Authority’s drive to expand bus service in the region.
STA is seeking a 0.3 percent increase in the sales tax on April 28 to pay for a wide range of improvements to the bus system, including a proposed Central City Line for travel between Spokane Community College, the University District, downtown and Browne’s Addition.
The STA Moving Forward plan, which would be funded by the ballot measure, contains transit improvements for all parts of the transit system.
It also would reduce reliance on STA’s downtown Plaza as a transfer point by increasing more regional connections throughout the system, including the West Plains.
On March 24, STA is holding a public meeting at Spokane International Airport from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Irv Reed Event Center on McFarlane Road next to the economy parking lot.
STA officials want to hear from the public on how creation of a freeway transit center at Exit 272 would affect traffic in the area.
The transit center on the south side of the interchange would include a 100-slot park-and-ride facility in addition to outdoor shelters for waiting passengers.
Through-buses to and from Cheney would use freeway medians for what are called “flyer stops” that allow the buses to make efficient use of the service. A pedestrian bridge would provide passengers with a safe way to cross the freeway lanes and access the two bus stops.
Outbound expresses to Eastern Washington University are full in the morning but have sparse loads on return trips. The opposite is true in the afternoon.
The center would bring more passengers to Cheney express buses and make better use of those coaches during trips with lighter loads.
Karl Otterstrom, planning director for STA, said freeway flyer stops are commonly used in the Seattle area, Minneapolis and Denver.
He said the project has gained support from West Plains residents who want improved bus connections.
“This is something we have heard loud and clear, that this is an important project,” Otterstrom said.
Carol Evans, vice chairwoman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, said in a letter that as the West Plains grows, “STA’s planned facility will serve as an important transit hub that will help enable continued smart growth and easy access to the entire region.”
Having a transit center at Exit 272 will allow STA to reorganize its bus routes so riders will be able to move across the West Plains, connecting Cheney, Medical Lake, Fairchild Air Force Base, Airway Heights, Spokane International Airport and Geiger Corrections Center.
The new stops at Exit 272 will serve the residents and growing number of employees in what is becoming an important commercial zone. Residents who live in the rural zones nearby can also access transit by using the park-and-ride lot, Otterstrom said.
Intracity buses will be able to use the flyer stops for their passengers.
“This is a project that has many components,” Otterstrom said.
STA is looking at a 17-acre parcel on the south side of the freeway for possible acquisition for the transit center and parking lot.
STA officials said having a transit center and reorganized bus routes on the West Plains will cut 1.1 million vehicle miles from the freeway.
The project is one of four alternatives considered by STA. A federal grant is being used for the initial engineering work. The project is estimated at $12 million. STA is also seeking a state mobility grant.
On Thursday, the STA board is being asked to approve the plan so STA can gain federal approval to use the freeway for the flyover stops and pedestrian bridge.
Cascades highway could open sooner
A low snowpack this year could bring an early opening for the North Cascades Highway.
The state Department of Transportation says it will start clearing snow from the highway next week and hopes to reopen the scenic route in less than a month. The highway is closed in winter between Diablo and west of Mazama because of snow and avalanche danger.
Crews will start work on the east side next Monday and on the west side March 23.
The state closed the highway Nov. 24. It typically reopens between mid-April and early May.
Sewer work closes stretch of Northwest
In Spokane, work is going to start today on a new storm sewer retention tank along Northwest Boulevard, forcing closure of a section of the boulevard from H Street to Garland Avenue. The tank is going into a small parcel at Princeton Avenue, which is notable for its landmark totem pole.
Also in Spokane, work is set to begin March 31 on a new gateway to Spokane on Division at Interstate 90. The project includes new pedestrian ways, landscaping and artwork.
North Idaho highway maintenance beginning
State highway crews in North Idaho got started on maintenance chores earlier than normal because of the mild winter. Crews that might have continued snow plowing operations this month have switched gears to paint striping and other jobs.
City may reduce speed on Inland Empire Way
From our Spokane City Hall beat, staff writer Nicholas Deshais reported last week that the City Council is considering a move to lower the speed limit to 25 mph on Inland Empire Way south of 23rd Avenue. The route no longer connects with U.S. Highway 195 near Cheney-Spokane Road as the result of a new interchange there.
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