Friday, February 27, 2009

Here's the Scoop On Stimulus Money In Our Area

Now that it's clearer how much of the $787 billion economic stimulus package funding Washington State will get, we've been getting tons of questions about where it will be used.

We now know that Washington will receive $492 million in federal transportation money and SRTC is responsible for allocating $10.4 million of it to local government agencies for transportation projects in Spokane County.

On February 25, SRTC held a special meeting of its Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) to discuss and recommend specific transportation projects for stimulus funding. Potential projects had been identified in December by a group consisting of staff from area government agencies and elected officials. Here is that list of projects.

Projects under consideration needed to be regionally significant, geographically distributed among the regions of Spokane County, and ready to go out to advertisement within 120 days of the state receiving the stimulus money, expected to be sometime the week of March 2.

Approximately nine projects made the TTC's short list to receive stimulus funding. A memo is being prepared to inform the SRTC Board of the chosen projects. Until then, the project list will not be released. The Board will consider the recommended list of projects at their regularly-scheduled meeting on March 12.

When the Board approves the final list of projects, jurisdictions receiving stimulus money will be required to advertise the projects for contractor bidding within 120 days.

We'll post the list of chosen projects when the Board is notified next week.

A Star Is Born

KHQ News has a new television show addressing the economy that will air Sunday mornings starting this Sunday, March 1. In the premiere episode, SRTC's Jeff Selle joins other local experts to talk about how stimulus funding will effect our area. Here are some pictures from the set.

Gas Prices Are Going Up, But This Is Ridiculous

A Spokane man thought he was paying $26 for gas in the Tri Cities the other day. Turns out, that stop for gas cost him a lot more- like $81,400,836,908 more.

Here's the story.

Nothing To Do On Sunday? Here's An Idea

They're Dropping Like Flies Lately

The eastbound lanes of Trent Avenue are blocked at Fancher where a pedestrian has been hit by a car, according to police. The pedestrian does not appear to have suffered life-threatening injuries, but still, this is happening all the time lately it seems like. Come on folks, it's light by 6:45 a.m. now so you can't use the excuse that it was dark outside. We all need to be more attentive. Okay, stepping down off my soap box now...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Student Asks For Drivers To Respect Handicap Parking Spots

Spokesman-Review Letters to the Editor
Respect reserved parking

I am a freshman at Mead High School, and my dad was recently injured. He is now restricted to a wheelchair. In a parking lot, handicap parking spots are intended for disabled people only. Unfortunately, there are many people who look for a quick way to the front door and abuse the handicap spots. With slick ice on the streets, it takes someone in a wheelchair even longer to wheel up to a door.
People often forget handicap-accessible cars often have ramps. Handicap spots with ramp space are crucial. I get extremely frustrated when I see a perfectly normal and healthy individual jump right out of their car to walk to the door from a handicap parking space, while my dad drives around searching for somewhere to deploy his ramp. He usually finds this spot in the very back of the parking lot, where no cars park.
My dad would give anything to be able to walk even 10 steps to the door. Please, do a favor for disabled people around town; only park in a handicap spot if you are in need of one. You will be appreciated.

Ciara McManus

Has anyone else noticed a lot of this abuse going on recently? I hear about it occasionally but it seems it's gotten worse lately.

County Weight Restrictions In Effect

It's official- seasonal weight restrictions are in effect throughout the county.
Every year at this time, roadway surfaces and the structures beneath become weakened by the freeze and thaw cycle, making roads vulnerable to damage.

Weight restrictions reduce the need for road maintenance and car repairs. Restrictions will be in place for approximately six weeks.

Effected roads in the county are posted with signs indicating maximum weights. Typically, these restrictions do not apply to the average car or pickup, but commercial and construction vehicles may need to lighten their loads to comply with the restrictions. And here's the part you need to know; Spokane County commercial vehicle enforcement officers will be on patrol and violators will be fined!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

State Plan Revealed For Stimulus Plan Money

Top House and Senate lawmakers yesterday unveiled their plan for spending $341 million in federal transportation money that’s coming to the state from President Obama’s economic stimulus plan.

Locally, the plan includes $2.4 million for asphalt work on U.S. 395 from the Spokane County line to Loon Lake, and another $9 million to continue that work from Loon Lake to Immel Road.

Here's the rest of the list of where the money will go.

Cameras Catch Lots Of Red Light Runners

Since the installation of the red light cameras in September, almost 1,600 tickets have been issued, including to the driver of an STA bus, several taxis, and a school bus driver! KXLY has more on this story.

Put These Dates On Your Calendar

As you've probably heard, the Spokane Transit Authority is considering raising fares. STA is holding drop-in style meetings in March to get your input on the idea.

The two meetings are on Wednesday, March 4th at the downtown Plaza from 2-6 p.m. and at Riverpark Square on March 9th and 10th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is your chance to put in your two cents, so take advantage of it.

If you aren't familiar with the fare hikes here's the proposal on how much they would go up.

If You Walk Or Ride In Kootenai County, Take This Short Survey!

SRTC contracts with the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (the MPO for Kootenai County), so we do a lot of work on both sides of the Washington-Idaho border.

Our latest project on the Idaho side is to develop a Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, and we're asking for help from the public to do so through an online survey. Because North Idaho has some great bicycling trails and walking paths, we know a lot of people from Washington travel over there to use them. So if you're one of those people, we'd like you to take our survey.

The input received will help to identify policies, goals, and projects to include in the Non-Motorized Plan. To take the survey, click here, then hit the link at the top of the KMPO home page.

Again, you do not have to be a Kootenai County resident to take this survey.

Please complete the survey by March 13, and thanks for your time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monroe Street Bridge Lane Closure

Southbound traffic on the Monroe Street Bridge will be reduced to one lane from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Wednesday through Friday (Feb. 25 through 27). Crews will be pulling cable through conduit. Signs directing traffic will be in place.

Two Bills Take On Studded Tires

Senator Chris Marr is doing the math, and he says the benefit of better traction during treacherous weather conditions doesn't make up for the amount of damage studded tires do to our roadways.

With Washington facing a $500 million transportation budget shortfall, Marr is proposing a bill that would ban studded tires. And he's not the only lawmaker trying to mitigate the damage done by studs. Here's more on this story.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Downtown Lane Closures For Tuesday

Lane closures are planned on Spokane Falls Boulevard and Stevens Street from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., tomorrow (Tuesday). The south lane of Spokane Falls Boulevard will be closed. Additionally, the center lane of Stevens St. will be closed to traffic; while the right and left lanes will remain open.

Avista Utilities will be replacing a manhole and performing cable maintenance. If you drive in the area you can anticipate delays and may want to consider an alternate route.

Downtown Parking Confusion

Some people who read a Spokesman article late last week about the new downtown Spokane 'Entertainment Parking District' were still confused about where they can park and for how long, so the Spokesman's Jim Camden is breaking it down for you.

Roundup For the Week of Feb. 23

A man who was seriously injured in an accident several years ago speaks out about needed improvements to an area intersection, Riverside will be closed tomorrow, and an bicycling group wants to teach you how to ride in traffic. Those are just a few of the things going on in transportation this week from the Spokesman's 'Getting There' column.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama To Nation's Mayors: 'I'm Watching You.'

Watch your backs mayors, President Obama says he's watching you. Obama warned the nation's mayors today that he will "call them out" if they waste the economic stimulus plan money.

Obama demanded accountability, from local government as well as his own agencies. He said the new legislation gives him tools to "watch the taxpayers' money with more rigor and transparency than ever," and that he will use them.

Here's more on this story.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Downtown Street Closure

A note from the City of Spokane:

Riverside Ave. from Lincoln to Post streets will be completely closed to traffic beginning at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 24, until 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25. The closure is needed to install HVAC equipment in the Small Business Administration building. Drivers will be detoured to Main or Sprague avenues.

Parking Signs Confusing Drivers

If you park within a three block area of downtown bounded by Madison St., Post St., Sprague Ave., and First Ave., you may be confused by some new signs that popped up recently.

That area has recently been designated an 'Entertainment Parkind District' to provide entertainment venues with specialized parking rules designed to accommodate large groups and tour buses.

Newly placed disabled signs have been attached to the meters within the district to indicate that vehicles with a disabled placard may park at the meters within the district for up to four hours. Many people, however, have interpreted them to mean that the spaces are limited to disabled parking, when they are meant to help encourage turnover in the spaces for those attending events at the entertainment venues located within the district.

Get Your Crosswalk Questions Answered

With the snow and ice melting off the streets, and more people out walking and bicycling, the subject of crosswalks has been coming up often again lately. Namely, the lack of painted crosswalks or questions on why faded crosswalks aren't repainted a lot of the time. The City has a 'Frequently Asked Questions' document on their website

Wondering why some crosswalks aren't marked? What the official guidelines for crosswalks are? Where crosswalks are normally marked? Check out the link above for answers.

Government Consolidation Suggestion Comes Up Again

There are three main government entities in our area: the City of Spokane, Spokane County, and the City of Spokane Valley. That mean each entity has a team of accountants, and each has a team of engineers, and each has a bevy of planners and attorneys, etc. But what if the three were to consolidate? It would mean some layoffs, but it may also mean that a lot of functions would no longer be duplicated among the three jurisdicitons.

Here's more on the suggestion from the Spokesman-Review. What's your opinion on consolidating local government agencies?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I-90 Construction Right Around The Corner

You have some extensive construction on I-90 to look forward to this spring and summer. The freeway surface will be rehabilitated from the Division Street Interchange (Exit 281), east to Custer Street (MP 285). Most of the Spokane area on and off ramps will be repaved as part of this job. And a project in the Valley will repave a 1500 foot section of I-90 between Sullivan and Barker roads.

Here's more on these projects, the impact they will have on your commute, and how they'll make your life better when complete.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Projects Added To Local Stimulus Package List

Additions have just been added to SRTC's list of transportation projects that are possible candidates for federal economic stimulus funding. Those projects are now available for public review and comment.

SRTC has spent the past several months working with area local officials and transportation agencies to develop a draft list of projects to submit for funding from President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package. Four new projects were added to that list on Feb. 17, 2009.

To view the additional projects and their descriptions, or for information on how to comment on them click here.

Obama To Sign Stimulus Plan Today

President Obama is expected to sign the Federal Stimulus Plan today, but don't expect it to speed up construction of the North Spokane Corridor. It looks like only $40 million could be available from the Stimulus Package for the freeway, which needs $3.3 billion to complete.Here's more from the Spokesman-Review.

My New Favorite Sign

Good thing it says 'Icy' underneath or I'd think it meant 'Beware of Dancers' or something.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mother Wants Intersection Fixed After Daughter Killed

A woman who lost her daughter to a car accident is trying to get the intersection of Highway 195 and Cheney-Spokane Road improved. And WSDOT agrees, saying it needs work. Here's the story.

It's been forever since I drove that road. Anyone who uses it on a regular basis have any input?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Holiday Closures (And Some That Will Be Open)

Monday, Feb. 16 is Presidents' Day. It's a mixed bag as far as which local government agencies will be open that day. Here's a rundown:

- City of Spokane offices and services will be open.
- City of Spokane parking meters will not have to be
plugged on Monday.
- City of Spokane Valley offices will be closed Monday.
- Spokane County offices will not be open on Monday.
- Liberty Lake offices will be closed Monday.
- Washington State Department of Transportation offices are closed Monday.
- SRTC offices will be open and our staff will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (well, we'll be here anyway)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some Notes From the City of Spokane

· Parking meters do not have to be plugged on Monday, Feb. 16, because of the President’s Day holiday.

· “4-Hour Time Limit” signs have been installed at all parking meters for citizens with disabilities in the Entertainment District, between the boundary of Madison St. to Post St. and Sprague Ave. to First Ave. The signs were installed to meet the needs of the entertainment venues located within the district.

· Browne St. from Sixth to Seventh avenues will be reduced by one lane for motorists traveling south next week. The closure is needed to accommodate a dumpster in the driveway approach to hold demolition materials from the Sacred Heart Medical Center remodel.

Remove Infrastructure To Improve Traffic?

I blogged about this after the Obama inauguration last month, but now the journal 'Scientific American' is tackling it. An article in the January issue of the publication talks about how removing transportation infrastructure may actually improve traffic flow, instead of slowing it down.

On Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C. last month, all the bridges into the downtown area were closed. There were millions of people in town for the occasion, all trying to get to the same place. So was traffic horribly tied up for hours? No, everything actually seemed to flow better when people had to find an alternate to driving alone into the city core.

The Scientific American article talks about how engineers tore down a 6-mile stretch of highway in Seoul, South Korea and put a park in it's place. Was there mass hysteria, civil unrest, people driving through the park? Read the article to find out.

Glenn & Jeff's Annual D.C. Trip

While you and I are sitting here wasting away in our cubicles, SRTC's Transportation Manager, Glenn Miles, and Manager of Transportation Relations, Jeff Selle, are in Washington, D.C. with other area civic leaders for their annual trip to talk to elected officials about the Spokane-area's needs and priorities.

Glenn was kind enough to send us some pictures to show us what we're missing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Agreement Reached On Economic Stimulus Bill

Members of Congress today reconciled the House and Senate versions of The Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act (more popularly known as the Economic Stimulus Bill) and it is expected to be signed by President Obama within days.

Here's the latest.

Washington Roads Ready For The Olympics

The Winter Olympics are only one year away. They'll be held in Vancouver, B.C. in 2010, so why is the Washington State Department of Transportation preparing for them?

Because a 50% increase in traffic is expected on highways that connect to the Washington/Canadian border. Here's what the DOT is doing to get ready.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Senate Approves Stimulus Measure

The Senate today approved President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus measure. The 61-37 vote by the Senate was a key victory for the president but sets up difficult negotiations with the House, which passed a slightly different version than the $838 billion bill that was approved today.

Super Bowl Sunday Trash Talk

We hear that D.U.I. arrests go up sharply on Super Bowl Sunday. Well apparently littering saw a major increase in Seattle on this year's game day as well. The WSDOT just released this picture of a semi hauling garbage that turned over on I-5 on February 1. Here's the story.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Daily Nonstop Service To San Francisco Coming To SIA

A new twice-daily nonstop service between Spokane and San Francisco will start this June through United Express and SkyWest airlines.

Flights will depart Spokane at 6 a.m. and 3:22 p.m., each arriving in San Francisco in less than two hours. Departures from San Francisco will be at 12:54 and 10 p.m. with similar flight times. Tickets go on sale Saturday.

The decision by United to expand its Spokane service came as a result of requests from business interests to improve Spokane’s connections with the West Coast and Asia.

San Francisco offers connections throughout the Pacific basin, including Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney, Seoul and Osaka, Japan.

Roundup For the Week of Feb. 9

Despite the poor economy, Spokane International Airport is going ahead with improvements, the University of Idaho is getting some new vehicles- electric ones, and STA has a new planning director. Here's what's happening in transportation this week from the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column.

My New Favorite T-Shirt

This is the new t-shirt I bought while in Olympia this weekend. No, that is not me modeling it, I got the picture off the internet.

The Side Effects of Bicycling. Who Knew?

Thanks to Barb Chamberlain who sent us this link about the side effects of biking. You should know what you're getting into before you incorporate bicycling into your schedule.

My favorite comment: 'If you are trying to get fat, then cycling might not be right for you.'

Thursday, February 5, 2009

WSDOT To Vandals: Don't Mess With Our Signs

A news release that just came out of the WSDOT:

OLYMPIA - The Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol are warning would-be vandals that tampering with a roadway safety sign is a crime.

Earlier this week, a portable electronic message sign within a WSDOT construction zone was re-programmed, prompting WSDOT to issue a safety warning and review security measures on its signs and signs owned by contractors.

“This is an issue that poses a potential danger to the traveling public and our crews,” said WSDOT Chief Engineer Jerry Lenzi. “Drivers are in jeopardy because these signs notify them of potential hazards up ahead. For example they could encounter construction equipment or conditions and be seriously injured or killed. Our crews rely on these signs to direct traffic through the work zone to help keep them and the motoring public safe.”

The single incident in Washington occurred when a control box of a portable message sign adjacent to the roadway was broken into by vandals who created the unauthorized message. The messages on portable construction signs are individually programmed at the job site and are not connected to a central computer network. The incident is similar to other incidents in Texas and Illinois that occurred earlier this week.

The unauthorized message was first noticed by a state trooper who immediately recognized the danger and notified WSDOT. The message was quickly corrected and WSDOT alerted its maintenance and contractor crews of the potential for this problem at other work locations.

“These people risk potential felony charges,” said WSP Captain Jeff DeVere. “These signs convey important safety information and we do not consider this a harmless prank.”

Are We Driving More Or Less Now That Gas Prices Have Dropped?

A lot of people found alternative ways to get to work and school last year when gas prices skyrocketed, but now that prices have dropped, have they gone back to their old ways of driving alone? Not according to the Washington State Department of Transportation, which closely monitors fuel prices.

The WSDOT says we're still driving less. Here's the data.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Intersection To Get Permanent Median

A Spokane Valley intersection known for its problems with accidents and traffic violations is getting a face lift. The median at Argonne and Indiana will be extended this spring to keep drivers from turning where they're not supposed to. Here's the story from KXLY TV.

Lobsters Need Love Too

Here's an update on President Obama's stimulus bill: It is currently bogged down in the senate due to a myriad of what GOP leaders are calling 'wasteful provisions.' Here are just a few of the add-ons they don't agree with:

• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.
• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.
• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."

The list goes on and on, including my favorite; funding for a lobster observatory in Maine. Here's more of the list.

Woman Charged With Homicide Because of Improperly Installed Car Seat

Spokane County prosecutors charged a Post Falls woman with vehicular homicide yesterday in the death of her infant daughter, because the baby's car seat was improperly installed.

We've warned you about everything else; speeding, roadkill, watching for bicyclists and pedestrians, the dangers of drag racing, etc. etc. So here's another one to add to your list; make sure you're installing car seats correctly. AND in the right seat. The woman in this story had the car seat in the front seat.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pothole Hotline Opens Early

Avoid this happening in the future by reporting your 'favorite' pothole now! The City of Spokane Valley has opened its' 'Report a Pothole' hotline early this year due to the large amount of snow we had this winter.

You can report a pothole by calling (509) 688-0171. Be sure to leave a location, including street name, cross streets and lane location. A name and daytime telephone numbers is also requested.

The great thing about this hotline? An actual LIVE person answers! I called to make sure the number was accurate and the very nice lady who answered said they do that so that she can call the crews immediately with any potholes that are phoned in, meaning they can usually be fixed that day or the next.

Parade To Close Howard Street This Afternoon

Unless you want to decorate your car like a float, I'd recommend staying off of Howard Street near North Central High School this afternoon.

Howard will be restricted to traffic between N.C. and Boone Avenue from 3 to 3:30 p.m. today for the Groovy Shoes Parade.

Drivers should use an alternate route such as Washington or Monroe. The students will be escorted by the Spokane police.

He's No Captain Sully

A revolt breaks out on a Russian airliner after a pre-flight speech leads passengers to conclude that the pilot is drunk.

The worst part- flight attendants and airline officials ignored the passengers' complaints, telling them it was "not such a big deal" if the pilot was drunk because "the aircraft practically flew itself." That's right folks, no need to take flying lessons; planes apparently do all the work themselves these days.Here's the story.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Another Vehicle-Pedestrian Accident

Another vehicle-pedestrian accident over the weekend, but this time it was a celebrity who was hit. Here's some cell phone video shot at the scene:

No word yet if Jack in the Box is going to be all right. Okay, he's a made up fast food character, and while their message is meant to sell food, mine is to remind you to be observant while out there walking (or driving), so don't be like Jack.

New Service Lets Trucks Drive By Scales & Inspections

I heard a commercial on the radio recently for a service that lets truck drivers bypass scales, inspections, and ports of entry by giving them an 'electronic inspection' as they drive by. Sounded interesting, so I thought I'd check it out on the internet.

The service is called 'PrePass' and it's currently being used in 29 states, but not yet in Washington and Idaho (although all the states that border Washington and Idaho are using it).

PrePass allows transponder-equipped commercial vehicles to bypass weigh stations and ports of entry by electronically verifying safety, credentials, and weight of commercial vehicles as they drive by.

Cleared vehicles continue on at highway speed, eliminating the need to stop which means greater efficiency for shippers and improved safety for all highway users. It didn't say what happens if you're not 'cleared.' Electric shock maybe?

Anyway, if you want more information or are looking to kill some time, check out the PrePass website.

Is Light Rail Still An Option?

Spokesman-Review Letters to the Editor

In Sunday’s paper there was an article by reporter Jonathan Brunt titled “City seeks Riverside extension.”

The piece itself was shocking, but one sentence really caught my eye. While describing the Riverside extension, the description included the language two lanes “with a median set aside for a future light rail system.”

What light rail system? Who approved it? Didn’t the voters reject light rail two years ago because of costs? Who’s paying for this median set aside?

Who is running this city? Does government just ignore the voters and answer to another dictate, and who would that be?

In a town that can’t afford enough police to keep us or our property safe, enough snowplows to be timely and effective, or enough funds to even catch up with all the road repairs needed, how can we afford to buy extra dirt for a future light rail system the majority of us don’t want?

With stone-age tax systems that desperately need revision and budget cuts more the norm than the exception, what powers in Spokane manage to ignore the voters and spend tax dollars on special-interest wants?

I want to know: Who did this and how?

David Bray

Mr. Bray- Voters did indeed vote down two advisory light rail propositions a couple years ago. The first asked whether STA should conduct a study on how to pay for the project. The second asked if STA should use its existing resources to pay for preliminary engineering and design for the light rail line.

Light rail isn't completely dead though, as neither proposition asked if STA should work to secure land to build a lightrail on, which is what STA is doing. The STA Board has left open the possibility of a light rail system some day in the future by setting aside $5 million of the budget in 2007 for light rail right-of-way purchases.

There are other projects in the works that also reserve light rail right-of-way. Until it becomes a reality, that right-of-way is being used for pedestrian paths in most cases. In additon to the Riverside extension, those projects include the Appleway extension in Spokane Valley, and the North Spokane Corridor.

More Stimulus Package Discussion

The Spokesman's 'Getting There' column is all about the economic stimulus package and what kind of projects would be funded under it. Take a look, then if you want to see that list of projects compiled by SRTC (working with local jurisdictions)click here.

About SRTC

SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

SRTC offers services including transportation monitoring, transportation modeling, census information analysis, travel demand forecasting, historical traffic count analysis, geographic information systems, and trip generation rates.