STA presents future transit plan to Airway Heights council


September 20, 2012

Frequency of service to city could increase under new approach


Staff Reporter

Spokane Transit Authority chief executive officer E. Susan Meyer outlined the future growth of public transit in the Spokane region at the Monday, Sept. 17 meeting of the Airway Heights City Council.

Meyer noted that the large discussion topic for future transportation in the region included a light rail system that could connect cities between Liberty Lake and Spokane. Monday's presentation outlined a possible connection stretching from Coeur d'Alene to the West Plains.

In a plan named “Moving Forward,” STA is looking at a high performance transit network that stretches across the Spokane region. Three different lines would lead to one of seven connection facilities, including one proposed at the I-90 interchange for Medical Lake.

Lines like those running to Cheney would operate on a 15 to 30 minute frequency, while Airway Heights could see transportation every 10-15 minutes. The plan factors in rides on light rail, commuter rail, rapid transit buses and other vehicles.

Cheney was of particular importance in the plan, STA director of planning Karl Otterstrom said. The number of riders using the STA when school is in session at Eastern Washington University equate to nearly 10 percent of all traffic on I-90 near the Four Lakes interchange, and 20 percent of traffic on SR 904.

“What's really unique about Cheney is we have a major four-year university that has a high share of commuters going to that campus each day,” he said. “We carry about 4,000 on route 66 each day.”

The plan is currently in the second of two phases, and will resurface in the spring of 2013 with a series of open houses and large public participation. A meeting at the Cheney Library will take place Wednesday, Sept. 26 from 5:30-7 p.m. to discuss this phase. More information on the proposal can be found at

Despite service reductions last year STA kept its customer base, averaging around 40,000 rides per day, and looks to increase to 100,000 rides per day in the next 20 years as more residents come to the area.

The City Council heard from two business owners having difficulty with building regulations in Airway Heights. Glen Nutter said he has been hit with road blocks in seeking to open a screen printing storefront in an existing building in the city. Roy Best said there are at least a dozen storefronts on the north side of Highway 2 that remain vacant.

Another comment from a commercial property owner in the past couple months extended the discussion throughout the council.

“If we continue to have this sort of reaction from potential business owners, then we need to look at the process. We as a council we need to look at the process,” Councilwoman Tanya Dashiell said. “That's a reflection of us as a city and we're trying to build businesses and trying to build the future, and that's not building the future.”

There is a grandfathering clause that allows for businesses to continue operating without needing updates in building codes, City Manager Albert Tripp said.

“As the building standards change over a period of time, it's perfectly fine to operate with that specific use in 1955,” he said. “But when it gets to a stage where the uses are about to change, that's where the new regulations come into play.”

Tripp said he would meet with both men to help with the communication and discussion process.

“We thrive as a city by our businesses. If our businesses are leaving, so is our revenue,” Mayor Patrick Rushing said.

Also at the City Council meeting, a bid was awarded to Spokane Valley's L&L Cargile, Inc. for the city's recovery well development phase for $375,606.33. This portion will construct a wellhouse over the well. Funding for the bid will come from the public works trust fund loan, which has funded most of the city's wastewater treatment plant and water recovery well.

Tripp said the recovery well project is already over its budget by $50,000. Factors leading to the overages included moving the site further south, creating a new design to match the location.

Tripp asked the City Council to consider taking $50,000 out of the city's reserve fund, which totals around $2.2 million, to make up the difference. He also suggested that the contract be awarded based on the amount of production capacity for the well. Initial attempts to draw water have proven successful, but it's unknown how future attempts will work.

The City Council's meeting time change was formalized, including the addition of a monthly council work session on the last Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. The next City Council meeting will take place Monday, Oct. 1 at the new time of 5:30 p.m.

James Eik can be reached at


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