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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

STA Plaza renovation to start in April

Buses depart from the STA Plaza on the corner of Riverside and Wall, October 30, 2009 in Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Remodeling of the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza – a project initiated with a feasibility study in 2008 – is finally going to construction.

The road for the $5 million project has been bumpy, to say the least.

Earlier this month, the STA board of directors quietly approved a $3.5 million bid by Walker Construction Inc. to do the work. Walker won the job over three other bidders.

The yearlong construction will begin in April and will consolidate transit services on the first floor while opening the second floor for other uses.

Here are the major elements:

Customer service will be moved from the second to the first floor and combined with security operations there.

The Sprague Avenue side of the building will be opened up with new indoor waiting areas and windows so passengers can see when their buses arrive.

Retail space on the second floor will be eliminated and new retail space will be built on the west wall of the first floor to go along with an existing Subway sandwich shop.

The first-floor rotunda will be made available for lease as commercial space, but any future tenant would have to make leasehold improvements. NAI Black is the leasing agent.

The existing escalator will be removed and a new escalator will be built along the south wall.

The two cougar sculptures, part of the original artwork, will be moved to the exterior of a new elevator on the south side.

Bus loading zones will not be changed.

An interior construction wall will be erected so bus operations can continue during the work. The contractor will perform major work at night. The Plaza will close to riders at 8 p.m.

STA is planning to open a special website for construction information for the public.

STA is also coordinating efforts with the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

Construction of the Plaza dates to 1995 and has proven to be a controversial location over the years for bus hub operations.

In 2008, STA underwrote a study that concluded the Plaza should be retained and upgraded.

A subsequent evaluation in 2012 looked at potential new uses for the second floor.

In 2013 the STA board approved redesign concepts, and in May 2014 the board adopted a budget.

In July that year, business leaders, through the downtown partnership, asked for a delay in remodeling. They questioned the viability of maintaining STA’s main transit hub in the heart of downtown and making a large investment of public funds to remodel it.

Those questions arose after the STA Plaza was seen as a trouble spot downtown, attracting loiterers who were not using transit services.

The business group ultimately came up with recommendations to discourage loitering and get buses to operate more efficiently through downtown.

Initial bids on the remodeling project last year came in well over the $4.95 million project budget.

The project was modified to keep it within that number and sent out for a rebid this year.

For more information on the project, contact Brandon Rapez-Betty by email at

Highway 95 widening

In another major project long in the making, the Idaho Transportation Department announced last week that it has received federal approval to move ahead with widening of U.S. Highway 95 from Moscow south to Thorncreek Road, a distance of 6.33 miles currently.

A formal record of decision was issued last Monday by the Federal Highway Administration.

ITD officials can now proceed with land acquisition and construction of the project estimated to cost $55 million to $62 million. Federal funding is available to increase highway safety and eliminate bottlenecks on the two-lane segment. Construction is expected to start in 2017.

The route chosen will shorten the distance from Moscow to Thorncreek Road by about a half-mile.

An environmental impact study settled on a route alternative that will carry U.S. 95 on the existing right of way from Thorncreek Road north to the top of Reisenauer Hill and then veer to the east on a new route. It will connect back with the existing highway at grain elevators on the south side of Moscow.

An initial environmental assessment dating back to 1999 did not lead to an environmental impact statement.

The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition in 2003 went to federal court and won a challenge to require an EIS.

In that case, the Idaho Fish and Game Department “characterized the diversity of plant and wildlife communities in Palouse remnants, explained its rarity and stated that the new highway would disturb habitat and result in fragmentation and disruption of wildlife movement,” according to the EIS.

The Fish and Game Department also said it would be “difficult to predict the extent of this long-term impact but it is expected to be significant.”

Among the alternatives studied for the new route, the easternmost alternative was chosen for its lower impact on wetlands and other environmental features.

The environmental impact statement also calls for wildlife crossings at county road underpasses and at culverts for smaller animals.

A 15.8-mile segment south of Thorncreek Road, which was not the subject of the coalition challenge, was completed in 2007.

Monroe Street project

In Spokane, crews are returning to Monroe Street from Fourth to Eighth avenues to complete a street rehabilitation and utility project started last year.

Monroe will be closed to traffic starting about noon Monday.

A series of detours are being posted.

Local traffic to medical facilities, residences and businesses on the lower South Hill will be able to use Lincoln Street to go south up the hill. Access will be from Fourth and Fifth avenues on the east side of Lincoln.

Lincoln is being striped temporarily for two-way traffic.

Motorists not needing local access are urged to take other routes.

Havana work resumes

In another major project, work resumes Monday on Havana Street from 37th Avenue to Glenrose Road. This year’s work will include bike lanes with water-permeable pavement, stormwater infiltration areas and restoration of the areas along Havana.

Also, 43rd Avenue is now closed from Scott to Garfield streets for completion of a larger project left over from 2015.