Spokane-area light rail lives?

From 2000-2006, the Spokane area was deep in a planning process for future light rail transit (LRT) in the South Valley corridor from downtown to Liberty Lake along Riverside and Sprague, with future extensions possible to Spokane International Airport and Coeur d’Alene. STA commissioned study after independent study, all indicating that at $17 million per mile–the projected cost of the developed project–light rail would more than pay for itself, generating billions in economic development. And significantly, because the cost of such a proposal is likely to skyrocket in coming years as the region grows, it was discovered that the annual operating cost of the light rail system would be less than the annual growth in construction costs, were the project to be built at some point in the future, instead of now.

But then, in 2006, the project was ditched after a hastily-written advisory vote was placed on Spokane’s November ballot. Though the totals were close (52-48), STA and local leaders considered it a mandate against light rail.

Now, light rail as a proposal is back from the grave. The Inland Empire Rail Transit Association, or InlandRail, has shown its first concrete signs of life since 2011. The organization recently engaged in a billboard campaign, and a recent Spokesman-Review article noted the possibilities that LRT presents. There’s a renewed sense that light rail could be one solution in an overall package of transportation projects designed to plan for future growth in the area. Even STA has suggested light rail for the South Valley corridor. It’s clear that a new sense of optimism has developed surrounding transit projects in the area.

After the break, view more videos of the original light rail proposal.

Yup. Seriously. This was a planned transit-oriented development at University City in Spokane Valley which dovetailed with the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan (SARP), which is now history, ditched by the City of Spokane Valley.

Here’s the original promotional video, at over fifteen minutes’ length. It includes all renderings made for the original light rail plan.

What do you think? Are you bullish on light rail? Are long-term costs or short-term costs more important to you? Do you think that STA Moving Forward, the recent STA planning process, could result in plans for a regional light rail system? Are you a member of InlandRail who would be willing to talk with us about the proposal? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.