Spokane’s first bus rapid transit line is still two or three years away, but work to prepare the city for its arrival continues, most recently at the downtown transit plaza.
The East Sprague Avenue side of the plaza is getting remade to prepare for Spokane Transit Authority’s Central City Line. The Central City Line is a fixed-route, zero-emission bus connecting Browne’s Addition with Spokane Community College on a 6-mile loop.
The buses will be long and articulated, so they won’t be able to fit in the boarding spaces at the plaza. Much like the changes STA made on the Riverside Avenue side of the plaza earlier this year, the westbound Central City Line stop on Sprague must be flush with the street.
Though the line isn’t scheduled to begin running through the city’s core until July 2022, at the latest, STA has begun work on its future line. Most notably, the transit agency relocated the transit station at Spokane Community College, a $5 million project that will construct the eastern terminus for the transit line. The relocation of SCC’s transit center, from its current spot facing Greene Street to one along Mission Avenue, is also related to construction of the North Spokane Corridor, the $1.5 billion freeway that will be elevated over SCC’s parking lot adjacent to Greene.
STA also recently built a $7.5 million garage on Cedar Street, just north of Boone Avenue and near STA’s headquarters. It was paid for by a local sales and use tax approved by voters in 2016 to fund STA’s Moving Forward plan.
The Boone Northwest Garage, as it’s called, will support the 10 vehicles that will be used on the all-electric Central City Line. It will also have nine electric buses, which will be used on STA’s high-performance transit network, beginning with the Monroe-Regal line and extending later to Spokane Valley on Interstate 90, North Division, Cheney and East Sprague. STA anticipates the new high-performance line on Monroe-Regal will generate 200,000 new rides a year.
The project was awarded a $53 million grant this year by the federal government, which largely funded the line. In July, STA pulled $20.2 million from the agency’s cash reserves to fully fund the new bus line after a federal oversight contractor recommended increasing the contingency dollars, among other reasons.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French, an STA board member who has long been involved in transit, said the increase in contingency dollars came from an overabundance of caution and predicted that the project may in come in under budget and before the anticipated completion date.
The $138,000 East Sprague plaza project started on Aug. 12 and is anticipated to be complete in late September. The project’s contractor is DW Excavating Inc. Parking across the street on Sprague is open. One vehicular travel lane remains open. The other two lanes are closed to traffic. One is for buses, the other for passenger boarding.
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