August 8, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 16

STA receives funding for transit center design

Plans from Spokane Transit Authority are moving along with the proposed West Plains transit center, and representatives shared project updates at a recent Cheney City Council meeting.

Spokane Transit Authority
An artist’s rendition of STA’s proposed West Plains Transit Center is shown above, viewed looking north. Medical Lake exit 272 from I-90 is at left in the drawing.

Last month, STA received an award for a Spokane Regional Transportation Council grant, totaling $951,500. That money, which consists of federal dollars, will go directly to the preliminary engineering and design of the transit center.

STA communications manager Molly Myers said the work on the preliminary sketches will begin in early fall or winter this year, and should take up to 12 months in total.

“We applied for a regional mobility grant to WSDOT last fall, and we were not awarded that funding,” she said.

Over the past year, STA has been rolling out a plan to upgrade its service throughout the region, including the West Plains.

“In the meantime, we continue to coordinate with WSDOT on future improvements to that Medical Lake interchange,” she said.

The park and ride would service cities in the West Plains: Airway Heights, Cheney and Medical Lake. Riders could travel to the transit center instead of going into Spokane, changing routes and coming back out to their destination, adding an extra hour or two to their commute.

Although building a facility like the transit center will take time and large amounts of funds, Myers said the chance to work with the Department of Transportation has provided an opportunity to create a facility that will work hand in hand with the freeway interchange.

“We’ve been working so closely with WSDOT on this project,” she said. “They’re doing a full redesign of the interchange.”

I-90’s exit 272, which leads to Medical Lake, has seen explosive growth in recent years. Residential construction south of the freeway has been booming and industrial traffic headed north to the Airway Heights area has also increased. The result has been a consistently busy intersection of which many residents have taken note. Residents at transportation meetings held by the SRTC expressed their concern about the intersection, which has yet to officially see a reduction in its rate of service.

STA formed a citizens advisory panel, consisting of community members of surrounding areas, to help provide input toward the transit center and what sort of shape it should take.

“They were very excited and pretty enthusiastic about it,” Myers said. “I think it has a lot of momentum.”

The transit center would provide 110 parking stalls for commuters, with space to double the parking capacity in the future. One of the proposals currently has three bus zones for connections to each of the West Plains cities and future aerospace industrial facilities. In addition, a pedestrian bridge and “flyer” stops would allow routes traveling to Eastern Washington University little interruption throughout the day.

The West Plains transit center is one of seven such hubs that STA has been researching for the past year or so.

“We’ll be out periodically through all the jurisdictions getting input as we move along in this process,” Myers said.

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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