Along with the Plaza Way construction project has come road closures that have led to transportation reroutes throughout Walla Walla.
General Manager of Walla Walla Valley Transit Angie Peters shared that major construction projects throughout the city have impacted all but one bus route.
“Every single route besides route three is impacted by some form of construction at the moment, so unfortunately, for a rider that means [unless you’re going on route three] the route schedule that you’re used to seeing is not accurate,” Peters said.
“So we’ve put out deviations online and posted them wherever possible physically, but it’s a lot to try to navigate the system when it’s not going where you would typically expect it to be going.”
On Tuesday, July 6, when the Washington State Department of Transportation closed the intersection of Plaza Way, State Route 125 and The Dalles Military Road, the Walla Walla Valley Transit office was forced to deviate some popular bus routes.
The largest impact from Plaza Way construction is on bus Route 5 and Route 6. These deviated routes are set to last for the remainder of the project.
Route 6 is not running on its typical loop down Ninth Avenue and Dalles Military Road all the way to Myra Road. Instead, the route is traveling up and down Poplar Street and circling back to the other end of Dalles Military Road to hit the popular Kelly Place stop. Peters reported that ridership is down even lower than usual on Route 6 because of the deviations.
Route 5 has rerouted but is still able to access its Plaza Way stop, one of the most popular stops for riders shopping or working in that area. Stops are impacted along Ninth Avenue since the bus can only travel as far as Orchard Street. Route 5 is one of the most popular routes aside from the mainline route one.
“It makes timeliness a little bit of a challenge, but we’re getting by and the riders are getting by,” Peters said.
The Walla Walla Valley Transit office supports the city of Walla Walla in all official transportation decisions, and they were excited that the results of the public Plaza Way construction survey determined more road closures in exchange for an earlier construction end date.
While reroutes have made transportation more difficult than usual, Peters is optimistic about how the finished roundabout will be for buses.
“That’s one intersection that a bus could get stuck at for a long time because of the light, so with the roundabout, in theory, they should be able to go through a lot sooner,” Peters said. “We know that WSDOT, the city, the county and everybody that has a hand in it really put a lot of thought into design for that.”
One of the ways that Valley Transit receives resident feedback and knows what kind of transportation projects to work on is through outreach campaigns. Valley Transit is looking into enhancing ADA accessibility at stops that have been in the system for a long time.
The ADA Transition Plan includes a public survey asking residents about how accessible they find Walla Walla city bus stops and what features make them most accessible.
Valley Transit also looks at what the city is working on and where the community is growing most to assess transportation needs.
“We’d like to see some growth and change,” Peters said. “We’re looking into ways that we could deliver more service within our current funding structure.”
A community outreach study is slated to investigate future improvement projects during the spring of 2022.
Pubic board meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month. A public comment section is scheduled at the beginning of every meeting to speak to the board about any transportation related concerns. Valley Transit is encouraging the public to attend meetings remotely via Zoom.
Peters is happy with the progress being made with the Plaza Way construction project despite inevitable bus reroutes.
“We’re just happy with the pace that they’re going and that they’ve been as communicative as they can be so that we can try to adjust things as quickly as possible and get information out to riders,” Peters said. “We’re just looking forward to the construction being done so that we can get some of our routes back to regular.”