Transit center moves ahead

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(LOREN BENOIT/Press file) An engineering and architect team have been hired by Kootenai County to design the new permanent transit center at this location in Riverstone. Pictured is the existing dirt transit center.

COEUR d'ALENE — Kootenai County has tapped an engineer and architect team to design a transit center that is expected to be built starting in July and completed in May 2019.

Commissioners have approved a contract for $240,985 with Coffman Engineers and ALSC Architects for the project, which will be constructed where the temporary Citylink dirt hub is located in Riverstone.

"We're really excited to have these consultants on board and move ahead," said Jody Bieze, the county's public transportation director. "This project has been three years in the making (since the property was purchased)."

Bieze said there will be three open houses during the design phase for the public and stakeholder agencies before the design is finalized. The dates and times for the open houses haven't been determined.

"We're hoping to have the first one in December," Bieze said.

Surveying and geotechnical work is expected to start next week.

One concern already raised by some residents is whether the transit center building will have an indoor waiting area, which they fear could become a magnet for homeless people to hang out.

Bieze said while outdoor seating and covered areas are planned for riders to escape the weather elements, whether there will be an indoor waiting area hasn't been determined.

The 2,500-square-foot building will include a break room for drivers, a dispatch area, training area for drivers, office space, storage, restrooms, security cameras and possibly bike lockers.

"We're not looking for a Taj Mahal or a big beautiful shiny new office," said Kim Hobson, transit program specialist. "We're simply looking to serve the needs of the system."

Phase 1, estimated to cost $2 million, will also include about 81 parking spaces, four bus bays, two bus layover spaces, a transfer area, lighting, landscaping and outdoor security equipment.

Bieze said all of the money has been secured for the first phase, which will be paid for with $1.6 million in Federal Transit Administration funds and $400,000 in matching funds from the county and other local jurisdictions.

Citylink averages 11,073 total rides on the urban routes each month. The system serves Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, Hayden, Dalton Gardens and Huetter.

Bieze said her department regularly gets requests from residents hoping that Citylink will eventually be tied in with the Spokane Transit Authority, but making that a reality would require approval from county commissioners.

Each of Citylink's seven buses will soon have security cameras on board. The paratransit buses already have cameras.

Fares of $1.50 for fixed-route riders in the urban areas and $3 for paratransit riders will likely be implemented next fall. It will be a cashless system. Rides have been free since Citylink started in 2005.

Rural route rides to the Coeur d'Alene Casino will remain free.

The cities of Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls recently increased their annual contributions $15,000 and $12,000 respectively toward public transportation so Citylink service could continue on Saturdays.

Coeur d'Alene's annual contribution is now $58,983, Post Falls' $34,168, Hayden's $11,696, Dalton Gardens’ $2,904 and Huetter's $165.

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