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

Getting There: Spokane’s growth inspires new STA transit project with more bus routes headed east

The Spokane Transit Authority is taking public comment on a developing project that could create new bus routes connecting Spokane, Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and parts of North Idaho.

The I-90/Valley Corridor High Performance Transit project is part of the STA’s 10-year Moving Forward plan that was approved by voters in November 2016. The proposition authorized an increase of up to 0.2% in local sales and use taxes to help maintain, improve and expand public transit in STA’s service area.

Current designs show three new routes running from West Plains to Liberty Lake, the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to the Stateline area and the University District to Greenacres.

STA officials also are considering three possible locations for a new transit center. The areas under consideration are STA’s Mirabeau Point park and ride, the Liberty Lake park and ride and a new location in Greenacres.

One of those could be renovated and augmented to serve as a transit center, said STA Director of Planning and Development Karl Otterstrom.

“Based on public feedback and the evaluation effort we’re currently doing, we will be looking at more specific sites and bringing that to our board’s attention for action, acquisitions, discussion, etc. in late May or June,” he said.

With the I-90/Valley Corridor project, STA also is aiming to implement the following amenities:

• Expanded commuter parking available east of Sullivan Road.

• Increased nonstop peak-hour, night and weekend service between Liberty Lake and Spokane.

• A two-year pilot program to create a cross-state transit partnership into Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene. This partnership would be subject to a cost-sharing agreement involving those municipalities and Kootenai County.

STA is accepting public comment through the end of the month on the project, which transit officials hope to have fully completed by 2025.

“This is a key corridor within our region’s plan, especially those cities of Spokane,” Otterstrom told members of the Spokane City Council’s Public Infrastructure, Environment, and Sustainability Committee earlier this month, “but there’s a lot of interest in coming to Spokane for those people for jobs or if they live in Spokane and want to connect with jobs east in the Valley or even farther east.”

Otterstrom said STA is pursuing the project due to the region’s growth.

Census 2020 datasets show Spokane County’s population grew 14.5%, or more than 68,000 residents, since the 2010 count, while Kootenai County’s 23.7% growth rate was the highest among nearby counties.

While generally citing Kootenai County’s swift rate of growth, Otterstrom said locations like Sprague Avenue, Argonne Road and the Spokane Business and Industrial Park are hot spots for households and jobs.

“Those have real impacts on traffic congestion,” Otterstrom said. “Hot spots along I-90 are not just infrequent occurrences, but daily. The cross-state commutes are increasing.”