SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Transit Authority Board approved a $54 million federal grant request to help fund it's Central City Line project.
The proposed six mile stretch would be Spokane's first Bus Rapid Transit system, connecting
The electric bus system will cost $72 million dollars. STA already has roughly 18 million set aside. They've now asked the Federal Transit Administration's Small Starts program for the remaining $54 million, about 75% of the total capital cost.
STA Customer and Community Relations Manager Brandon Rapez-Betty said the need for some kind of 'downtown circulator” has been evident since 1999.
“We thought a streetcar at one point, but through further assessment when we saw the cost of a street car, we started to look at other alternatives and a bus rapid transit line, specifically an electric one, was the mode that the community chose,” Rapez-Betty said.
This plan, not without it's own costs, though. But STA says $72 million is in line with other, similar projects- even with current bus routes in Spokane.
“Not to minimize $72 million dollars but in the grand scheme of things to pay for a transportation system, we're very much in line with other systems,” Rapez-Betty said.
Their goal? More transit, more often- without creating more traffic.
“It's connecting some of the highest density living areas in the city, with the highest density job connections in the city,” Rapez-Betty said.
Sta says... They've received a lot of public comments on the plan.
“In general people who are aware of the project have been giving us their input of how they'd like to see it implemented and that's what we've been moving forward with,” Rapez-Betty said.
In the past... KXLY has spoken to tax payers and policy groups who had qualms with the project- saying there were cheaper ways to achieve these transit goals. But, bus riders are largely in favor of the plan.
In 2015, Spokane voters rejected an STA ten-year funding package that included this project, among others.
But last November they approved STA Prop 1- an increase in sales and use tax to be used for the exact same purpose.
“What voters approved in Proposition 1 were the operating funds for the Central City Line, which are estimated at about $4.1 million per year,” Rapez-Betty said.
Rapez-Betty says that increase will cover the operating costs for the Central City Line, and other projects.
STA's timeline estimates construction will start in 2019, and the route will be functional by 2021.