Transit backers plan for growth- Is light rail coming to Spokane?

Location of bus or rail stations could influence development

Amy Cannata
Staff writer Spokesman Review

Rapid transit stations could be a catalyst for growth and development in the Spokane Valley.

Spokane Regional Light Rail is holding a series of meetings this week to plan how transit stations could influence economic development in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake.

Transit stations are proposed in both cities’ cores.

A station proposed at the University City mall could help revitalize older Spokane Valley commercial properties that have suffered as development has moved east toward the Spokane Valley Mall.

Spokane Valley officials have been considering the area as a location for city offices.

"It’s very important that the development they propose not be dependent on transit being there," light rail project manager Kim Traver said.

The light rail committee is studying the possibility of bus rapid transit.

A study this year showed there aren’t enough potential riders to win federal financing of a proposed 16-mile light rail line between downtown Spokane and Liberty Lake.

With bus rapid transit, buses would be given priority at intersections, stop less frequently and hold more passengers.

Another possibility is a shorter light rail line.

Bus or rail rapid transit could benefit University City, but current development plans don’t count on it, said Orville Barnes, the shopping mall’s property manager.

"We’re looking at the fact that it will become a mixed-use type of area. We’re trying to position ourselves to do that sort of thing," Barnes said.

A portion of the mall is being torn down to make way for more surface parking.

The automobile still is king in the Spokane Valley, but transit could have a bigger impact in future years, Barnes said.

"We’re developing it in a manner that it could take advantage of that but also work now," he said.

•Spokane Regional Light Rail will hold two public meetings this week to plan development around proposed transit stations at the University City mall and in Liberty Lake. The first meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Decades at University City, 10502 E. Sprague. The Liberty Lake meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Telect, 2111 N. Molter Road.

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