Thursday, December 30, 2010

City of Spokane Snow Update

The City of Spokane is continuing work under a Stage 2 Snow Emergency declared yesterday. That means City crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full-City plow that includes all residential areas.

Currently, the City has 57 pieces of snow removal equipment out, including 19 teams of plows and graders working in the neighborhoods. Private contractors were added to the effort yesterday. Teams are working in residential snow plow routes 5, 20, and 24 on the South Side and routes 8 and 23 on the North Side. They’ll move to route 9 next. Crews have completed work in residential hill routes 21, 22, and 23.

By now, all cars should be parked on the even side of the street in the residential areas.

Crews also are working on secondary arterials and STA fixed bus routes. No cars can be parked on arterials or STA routes during a snow emergency. Additionally, parking is restricted in downtown between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to facilitate plowing there.

Click here to check the progress of City plows.

WSDOT Posts Winter Driving Pics

We weren't the only ones hit by snow and messy commutes yesterday. The WSDOT blog has posted pictures that people from all over the state tweeted of the ugly conditions. Check it out. It's mostly the Pass and Western Washington pics, but it might make you feel better about your own situation to know that they're suffering right along with us.

Collision Count

It was a mess of slideoffs, collisions and stuck vehicles out there last night. On the bus ride home, the freeway was at a standstill, so our driver took a detour. She was nervous about which roads to take though, so a rider stood at the front with her, on the phone to his girlfriend who was watching traffic cameras on her computer at home. He not only directed her around several accidents that could have tied us up on the bus for a LONG time, but when we got to the park and ride, the same man helped each of the women off the bus and over a giant mound of snow at the sidewalk. Thanks to our bus driver and that gentleman for getting us all there in good condition.

Here's a roundup of how many accidents and other incidents law enforcement dealt with last night.

On my way in this morning, I noticed a car in the ditch and the eastbound lanes of I90 blocked by an accident near the Sprague exit but for the most part things looked a lot better.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Afternoon City Snow Update

The City of Spokane has just upgraded to a Stage 2 Snow Emergency. That means crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full-City plow that includes all residential areas. The City has also called in private contractors to help with the snow removal effort.

By 8:30 p.m. tonight, citizens in residential hill routes—routes 20 and above must move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street. By 4:30 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 30, citizens in all other residential areas must move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street.

Additionally, parking is restricted in downtown between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to facilitate plowing there. And no parked cars are allowed on arterials or STA fixed bus routes. Here's the link to the residential plow map for more information.

Best Rest Stop? I'll Be The Judge Of That

What do you find desirable in a rest stop? I personally like the ones that have real mirrors instead of those scratched up pieces of metal mounted on the walls, and I really love a rest stop that doesn't have shady characters skulking around. A pet area that's not two miles away is also nice, as is free coffee, which is getting harder and harder to find.

One rest stop in Utah has all of the above, and more. And in recognition, it's been voted the best rest stop in the country. It doesn't look that great. I mean, where's the guy who cleans your windshield for free or a kiosk to look up google maps to make sure you're actually on the right route? Alright, I'm asking too much. Check out the video and give me your opinion, plus let me know what characteristics you judge rest stops on.

Video Courtesy of

City & County Snow Updates

From the City of Spokane- they're calling a Stage 1 Snow Emergency, which requires cars to be moved from all arterials and STA fixed bus routes within six hours, or by 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.

A Stage 1 Snow Emergency includes plowing residential hill routes—those numbered in the 20s on the residential plow map.

If you park on the street, do so on the even side of the street in those areas within 12 hours—or by 8:30 p.m. Plows will begin in route 21 on the South Hill and 22 on the North Side.

City crews currently are working on arterials throughout the City.

From Spokane County– Road crews are back to working 12-hour shifts around the clock to plow the County's 2,550 miles. Currently snow removal equipment is working on emergency routes and primary arterials.

After crews finish plowing/sanding emergency routes and primary arterials, they will move to secondary roads, hilly residential areas, followed by flat residential neighborhoods.

Check Traffic Cameras Before Hitting Roads

A reminder that on days like this it would be a good idea to check the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center website before heading to work or home. The site shows you conditions from 60+ live traffic cameras. And if your usual route is at a standstill due to accidents or bad conditions, you can check out alternate routes to see what's the best way to get where you're going.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Short Week For Gov Workers

It's a short week for us government workers again. All local government offices are closed Friday, and several close early on Thursday. The Building and Planning Department at Spokane County will be closed all day Thursday, December 30th as well for a staff furlough day.

New Year's Day is a parking meter holiday in downtown Spokane.

All government offices open again at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 3.

Valley Planning 2011 Road Projects

After all the snow we're expecting to get dumped on us tonight, we may not even be able to see area roads tomorrow, but Spokane Valley is moving ahead with plans to improve them in 2011 anyway, including how the construction will affect traffic. Here are some of the construction projects planned for 2011, courtesy of the Spokane Valley Herald.

WA State Highway Fatalities Down Over Holiday

Highwway fatalities were down over the Christmas weekend compared to last year. There was just one highway death last weekend according to the Washington State Patrol - a hit-and-run in Auburn. There were four over the same time period last year.

There were more DUI arrests though. The exact numbers aren't available yet so I'll get back to you on that.

Cheap Bike Snow Tires

Check this out. Don't want to pay for fancy snow tires for your bike but want to be able to ride it in the winter? Thanks to Alison for sending me these do-it-yourself bike snowtires! Everyone has zip ties lying around their garage. Just strap them on your tires and you're ready to go.

Here's more on this idea from Lifehacker.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Car Parts Disapearing In Broad Daylight

As if it wasn't bad enough that you have to worry about someone breaking into your car, now you have to worry about thieves stealing parts off of your car as well.

Auto shops said they’ve seen a rise in the numbers of cars missing catalytic converters in the past month. Why? Krem 2 News explains in this story:

Someone Got Pretty Creative

Okay, I know Christmas is over now and people are already talking about taking down their trees, but check out the picture of the Christmas tree made from bikes on the Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle Blog before the season is completely over. It's pretty cool.

Transportation Roundup For Week Of Dec. 27

The state is losing revenue as drivers are using less gas, the Washington State Department of Transportation buys more rail cars to move grain to port and aggressive driving appears to be becoming more prevalent. Here's what's happening this week in transportation from the Spokesman's 'Getting There' column.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blogging Holiday

A reminder that there will be no new blog posts for a couple days as SRTC celebrates the holidays. To quote Clark Griswold, "Well I'm gonna park the cars and get the luggage, and well, I'll be outside for the season."

Letter Writer Dodges Traffic At Thurston & Regal

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
Enough to make a pedestrian cross

Walking to school should be easy enough. I live only a couple of blocks from Ferris High School, but every day I dread the task because of the monster between points A and B. It’s called the Thurston and Regal intersection.

It’s hard enough turning onto Regal in a car, but what’s worse is crossing it without a layer of metal and air bags between you and the speeding vehicles. Trust me when I say it’s not fun standing at the corner for over a minute waiting for a gap in traffic or a nice person who stops for pedestrians.

Once a woman was polite enough to stop, but then honked and yelled at me, “This is not a crosswalk!” It might as well be. A large number of people cross there every day, many of whom are high school students trying to get to school on time. This leads to students waiting for a gap in traffic so they can run to the lane dividers then run again to the school grounds.

Crosswalk indicators are necessary to protect pedestrians at the Thurston and Regal intersection if drivers continue to ignore them.

Sheridan Robak

I went to Ferris many, many, many (x20) years ago and it seems like the problems we had then still exist today, only probably worse because of the increased amount of traffic. Could this location be a candidate for a complete street treatment sometime in the future?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Federal Vs. Local. Or Not An Issue?

Congress will begin drafting transportation legislation next year, but the lack of available funding has some speculating that there could be competition between transit and highway advocates over federal funding.

The argument on the part of highway advocates could be that highways are inherently an interstate concern while transit and non-motorized forms of transportation are a nonfederal concern. To which some say the line between “federal” and “local” transportation is not as easily determined as some may think.

This article in 'Planetizen" argues that every transportation project has an equal interstate impact. Any thoughts on this that weren't mentioned in the article?

Local Cyclist Dies

A 32-year-old Spokane bicyclist has died from injuries suffered in a collision last fall at Fourth Avenue and Lincoln Street.

Matthew R. Hardie died on Dec. 14 from complications stemming from head injuries sustained in the Oct. 4 collision. Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review.

Insuance Industry Names Safest Cars For '11

What cars are the safety new vehicles? According to the insurance industry's annual list, the safest vehicles belong to South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia and German car maker Volkswagen.

66 vehicles were recognized today with “top safety pick awards” for the 2011 model year. The list also includes Audi, GM, Ford, and Toyota. I've been looking at buying a Toyota just because they have Eric Estrada in their latest commercials. Glad there's some stats to back up my decision.

Here's the info on which of these auto makers' cars are the safest and why.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Navigating Spokane Streets From A Different Viewpoint

It's not unusual to see Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder on two wheels. Those wheels are usually attached to a bicycle though, not a wheelchair. Mr. Snyder took to this chair forInternational Disability Day, to experience what people confined to wheelchairs deal with every day. Dec. 3 happened to be a pretty snowy day too, no picnic in a wheelchair. Snyder blogs about his experience here.

I've had the pleasure over my years at SRTC of working with a wonderful woman from Millwood who has Lou Gehrig's disease. She has worked with us in the past to identify situations that can be huge barriers to folks on wheels. And the days I went out with her, there wasn't even snow on the ground. Some items she did point out:

- Sidewalks that were too narrow for her power chair
- Crosswalks where the button to push to get the walk signal was mounted on a pole that sat in the middle of a bed of decorative rocks, which her chair couldn't traverse
- Poles and signs placed in the middle of sidewalks
- ADA ramps that were too steep to navigate
- Bus stops where the bus couldn't get close enough to the curb for her to get her wheelchair on
- Debris such as broken glass and other trash on sidewalks.

Kind of opens your eyes to take even a short walk with someone who gets around in different ways than we do.

WSDOT Projects for 2011

I know, it seems like construction season just wrapped up. But the Washington State Department of Transportation just doesn't rest. They're already releasing their list of projects for our area for 2011. Among the 19 projects that will cost approximately $130 million:

- Continuing North Spokane Corridor projects
- Four Interstate 90 projects
- Two US 195 projects
- Preventative maintenance chip sealing

You can check out the entire list here, plus a map of where each project will be located.

Spokane Makes 'Best Commutes' List

Thanks to Bike to Work Barb for sending me this item: Congratulations to Spokane! According to 'TheStreet and Bundle,' Spokane has one of the top ten 'best commutes' in the country.

How did they determine this? By determining how much people spend each year for transportation and what cities are the worst in terms of expenses, plus the average commute length, miles traveled and annual hours delayed.

According to this survey, Dallas, TX has the worst commute with an average of 38 minutes and 53 hours of delay per year. Eugene, OR has the best with an average 17 minute commute and 11 hours of delay per year. Spokane had the fifth best commute, with an average time of 30 minutes and nine hours of delay per year. No word on where our Idaho neighbors came in at.

Here's how the rest of the numbers shook out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Closures

This is a short week for us government workers. Because Christmas falls on a Saturday this year, we have Friday off for the holiday. That means you only have four days to get your government business done. The City of Spokane will have a number of closures related to the holidays.

Some other things to keep in mind:

- The Spokane City Council is not scheduled to meet on Monday, Dec. 27. Council meetings will resume on Monday, Jan. 3.

- Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24 and 25, and again on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

– The Spokane County Building and Planning Department will be closed on Thursday, December 23rd (staff furlough) and remain closed on Friday, December 24th.

- All offices open for normal business hours again on Monday, Dec. 27.

Special SRTC Board Meeting

A special SRTC Board meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 7, at 10:30 am here at SRTC to discuss the performance of a public employee. The meeting will go directly into Executive Session so I don't have an agenda to attach.
Someone sent me this picture in an email with some other pictures, and the caption was, 'This is why America is fat.' @Todd sent me the story behind the picture and it's actually pretty amazing. While technology makes me crazy some days, this is one of those examples of how it's making a huge difference in someone's life. I'm not going to link to the actual article because there's some language in it I'm not comfortable linking a government site to, but here's the overview: the woman in the picture is named Melissa. She's a 15-year cancer survivor. She lost her left leg to the illness and started using the Segway as an assistive device because it's both maneuverable and because she has difficulty walking, especially on hilly areas. It also allows her to be in the standing position and look people in the eyes during conversations, and be mobile in ways that wheelchairs are not. So there's your uplifting story for the day. Way to overcome Melissa.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grants To Help Pay For Projects

Spokane County Commissioners yesterday accepted four grants to help pay for local road construction projects. And the speed limit has been dropped on Harvard Road.

The Spokesman-Review has information on both stories.

Lane Barrier & Striping Adjustments

Work starts today to adjust the lane barrier configuration and paint striping on US 395 in the vicinity of the new NSC/US 395 Interchange. This work is being done to shift the southbound traffic off of the bridge shoulder.

Starting at 7 this morning, Northbound US 395 traffic will be diverted onto Wandermere Road between the vicinity of Hastings Rd. and the Hatch Road Interchange. Drivers should expect slow traffic and congestion. Northbound traffic will be moved back onto US 395 when the work in that lane is complete. Following that work, possibly Thursday afternoon or beginning at 7 a.m. Friday morning, southbound traffic will be diverted onto Wandermere Road from the Hatch Road Interchange to the vicinity of Hastings Rd. When this work is complete, southbound traffic will be moved back onto US 395.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Freeway Back To Normal After Series Of Accidents

Westbound I90 was at a crawl through Spokane a little earlier this morning after a series of accidents, but it appears to be moving again now. One of the accidents involved a driver knocking over a light pole alongside the freeway just west of the Thor Street overpass.

According to the Spokesman-Review, after the light pole came down, other drivers struck the pole. This caused a backup, almost to Argonne Road. This in turn caused two more accidents.

The good news though is that the mess is cleaned up and the freeway running smoothly now. And you can check for slowdowns like these on the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center website in order to avoid them. Jeff in our office used his phone while on the bus this morning to see what the slowdown was, then informed the bus driver, who promptly got off the freeway at the next exit to avoid the mess.

Emphasis Patrol This Weekend

An emphasis patrol for impaired drivers starts this weekend. For the past 20 years law enforcement agencies throughout Washington have conducted “Night of 1,000 Stars” impaired driving traffic safety emphasis patrols. Each “star” represents the badge worn by an on duty law enforcement officer. This year’s patrol, scheduled for Friday, December 17, is dedicated to all fallen officers, the Washington officers who have died in the line of duty, and the officers who continue to protect and serve.

This statewide enforcement will look for drivers impaired by alcohol and other drugs. Officers will also be on the lookout for people who speed, drive aggressively, are not wearing a seatbelt, or violate other traffic laws.

There were 44 traffic fatalities in Spokane County in 2009, 20 from impaired drivers.

10 Worst Foods To Eat While Driving

With all the attention on texting and driving, apparently some people have forgotten that it's not safe to do a lot of other things while driving, such as eating or anything else that makes your hands unavailable to be placed on the steering wheel. MSN remembered though and came out with this list of the top ten worst foods to eat while driving. Below is the list, followed by MSN's comments:

1. Coffee: It always finds a way out of the cup.
2. Hot soup: Many people drink it like coffee and run the same risks.
3. Tacos: A food that can disassemble itself without much help, leaving your car looking like a salad bar.
4. Chili: The potential for drips and slops down the front of clothing is significant.
5. Hamburgers: From the grease of the burger to the ketchup and mustard on top, plenty of goop can end up on your hands, clothes and steering wheel.
6. Barbecued food: Similar issue arises for barbecued foods as for hamburgers. The sauce may be great, but it will end up on whatever you touch.
7. Fried chicken: Another food that leaves you with greasy hands, which means constantly wiping them on something, even if it's your shirt. It also makes the steering wheel greasy.
8. Jelly- or cream-filled doughnuts: Has anyone ever eaten a jelly doughnut without some of the center oozing out? And jelly can be difficult to remove from material.
9. Soft drinks: Not only are they subject to spills, but they also can fizz as you're drinking them if you make sudden movements. Most of us have childhood memories of soda fizz in the nose; the sensation isn't any more pleasant now.
10. Chocolate: Like greasy foods, chocolate can coat your fingers as it melts against the warmth of your skin, leaving its mark anywhere you touch. Try to clean it off the steering wheel and you could end up unintentionally swerving.

Here's the reasoning behind how these foods ended up on the list.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quiet Zone Creation Could Be Long Process

From time to time I receive a complaint about train whistles and am asked what can be done to shut them up at night. SRTC's Bridging the Valley project could help with that problem, but it's not moving ahead very quickly due to a lack of funding and the lack of a new Federal transportation bill.

The City of Spokane Valley is now jumping on the band wagon, looking into establishing 'quiet zones.' So far they're not having a lot of luck though due to the long, expensive process required by the railroads to develop these zones.The Spokane Valley News Herald has the story.

Trees Arrive By Bike

Anyone can go to a tree lot and buy a Christmas tree, but how many can get them delivered? Especially via bike? A group in Portland is delivering trees behind their bikes as a fundraiser for the less fortunate. Here's the story.

Transportation Advisory Committee Agenda

This month's Transportation Advisory Committee meeting is a week early, due to the holiday, so it's next Monday, Dec. 20. I just posted the agenda to the website so take a look and see if anything jumps out at you. As always, members of the public are encouraged to attend all SRTC committee meetings. This meeting will have an alternate location though, also due to the holidays. It will start at 3 p.m. on the 20th at the Downtown Spokane Library. Feel free to attend.

County Building & Planning Expanding Hours

The Spokane County Building and Planning Department will expand it's hours starting in January 2011. Effective Monday, January 3 the Building and Planning Department will be open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. as well as Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Planning Director John Pederson says it's a matter of customer service. A survey of their customers found that approximately 65% of those who responded were inconvenienced by the department’s Friday furlough policy. Since business volume improved slightly in 2010, the Building and Planning Department is able to stay open half a day on Fridays.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'll Stop Complaining About Riding In Work Clothes Now

Thanks to @Charles for directing me to this cool photo. I have a couple friends that have tandem bikes and in both cases the husband complains that the wife sits in the back and doesn't pedal so he's essentially hauling her around. Well can you imagine this couple on a tandem?

Harry: "Are you pedaling back there? My goodness woman, what do you weigh?"

Mildred: "It's not me, it's this blankety blank 40 pound dress! Oh fudge, now it's tangled in the spokes!"

This picture is part of a project where historic photos are combined within the same frame as the current landscape, creating an interesting perspective of reality. You can see more historic photos here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's On Your Mind?

I sat through a 'webinar' on blogging today. The presenter was Dan Zarella, author of The Social Media Marketing Book and an award-winning social, search, and viral marketing 'scientist.' He said scientist, not me. Dan studies social media behavior to teach marketers best practices for whatever type of social media they're using to push their product. Which in this case is transportation.

Among other interesting points, Mr. Zarella said that if you want comments on your blog, just ask for them. It turns out to be a slow day as far as transportation news goes, so this is your chance. I'm going to turn it over to you. Anything you want to say? Any topics I haven't addressed that you'd like to see info on? Any general transportation observations you'd like to share? Just don't tell me about your cat Fluffy or what you had for breakfast. Please keep it focused on transportation and I'll do my best to come up with an answer or reply or dance around the issue and try to change the subject. Just kidding, that's not my style. I'll share whatever I know. Now ask away.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review & Comment On Submitted Projects

SRTC recently solicited applications on behalf of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for their 'Consolidated Program.'

Eight projects were submitted by area jurisdictions. They are available for review and comment starting today until Jan. 7, 2011. Click here to view the list of projects, how to comment on them, and more information on the Consolidated Program.

Council Backtracks On Vehicle Tab Fee

The Spokane City Council this week made a couple of surprise moves- backtracking on implementing a new $20 vehicle tab fee and shifting money away from road plowing and repairs to be spent instead on rewarding departments whose labor unions made wage and benefit concessions.

Council members spent almost a year working out the details of a Local Improvement District (LID) to raise extra money for transportation improvements through the tab fee. At Monday night's Council meeting, Council President Joe Shogan, who organized the initial work, reportedly wasn't pleased with the rest of the council allegedly waffling on the decision. Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

City Snow Plan Adjustments

The City of Spokane made changes to its snow removal plan following the first real test of the plan over the last couple of weeks.

Changes to the plan include:
• Adding residential hill routes to the Stage 1 Snow Emergency. Under a Stage 1 Snow Emergency, the City already plows all primary and secondary arterials, fixed STA bus routes, the central business district, neighborhood business districts, and the medical district on the lower South Hill. Residential hill routes are those routes numbered in the 20s on the residential snow plow route map, and include Five Mile, part of Indian Trail, the Eagle Ridge area, and other parts of the South Hill.

• Deploying graders in residential areas for Stage 2 Snow Emergencies, if conditions warrant. When starting on residential plowing, the Street Department will test the effectiveness of using truck plows. If the truck plows cannot remove snow to 0 to 2 inches of material, the department will use graders or grader/truck plow teams to plow in the residential areas.

• Eliminating berms from downtown streets at the conclusion of a full-City plow. Once a full-City plow is complete, Street crews will be deployed to melt or remove berms from the downtown core. They will continue this work as long as other storms don’t require they focus once again on plowing streets.

The updated Snow Plan can be found here. And one more thing: there’s a fake Twitter page claiming to be a City snow plowing site. To get information on the City's snow removal efforts, the City’s Twitter account can be found here.

A Couple Items From The City of Spokane

- Lane closures are planned on Division St. near its intersection with Sprague Ave. from 5 to 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9. Lamar Advertising needs to repair a damaged sign that was hit by a truck. Traffic control will be in place and motorists should anticipate delays.

- With warmer temperatures and rain forecast into next week, the City is taking steps to address potential problems that may occur from melting snow. Standing water at intersections and in low-lying areas is likely, and City Wastewater Management and Water crews are clearing storm drains and catch basins at intersections to help prevent possible minor street flooding. Citizens are asked to clear snow away from storm drains in front of their homes, if it is safe to do so. You should also avoid driving through deep puddles of water.

How Much Have You Hauled?

What are some of the more unusual items you've hauled on a bike? Everyone brings a water bottle for hydration, but how about this load of water bottles? Ever drag around your own keg of beer? Or how about your pets? Here are some other odd items people have managed to haul on their bikes, from Wired. I think the strangest thing I've hauled was a crockpot. It was empty though, unfortunately, as I was coming home from a work potluck. What have you hauled?

Downtown Spokane: What To Do With The Snow?

Three years ago when we got a huge dumping of snow was the first time I can remember witnessing the 'berming' of snow in downtown Spokane. Apparently the practice has been around for years though, despite complaints from many that it's unsafe because it only allows drivers to change lanes in the intersections. KXLY News asked the City yesterday what happens next with the berms, and if berming is a common method of snow removal used in other places.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thursday Is SRTC Board Meeting

The SRTC Board monthly Board meeting is this Thursday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. Here's the agenda. Feel free to attend. The meeting is in our conference room at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

New Proposal Would Require Camera In Every Car

I blogged recently about a move to require equipment in cars that would disable cell phone use. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is calling for all new cars to be built with backup cameras. The auto industry hasn't come forward with a stance on the suggestion yet, but many think they won't support it as it could be very expensive to equip every car with this technology.

Here's the story from

Merchants Ask For Plows- Get Umbrellas

Speaking of bad weather causing trouble in Seattle (see below), some west side merchants are asking to have their roads plowed- and getting umbrellas instead. Some business owners are upset that thousands of dollars are being spent on a campaign to raise awareness of pedestrians. They feel that money should go toward snow removal efforts instead. King 5 News has the story. Watch the video then let me know if you think the business owners have a point or if they're comparing apples to oranges.

New Snow Strategy In Place For West Side

If you turned on your TV or computer at all last week or the week before, you probably saw the media coverage of the mayhem that seiged the west side of the state when a snowstorm blew through. People were literally stuck on I5 for hours due to many slideoffs and collisions. To avoid this kind of gridlock again, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol have come up with a new strategy that includes two new 'response teams.' You can learn more about that strategy here, from the Snohomish Times.

City Plowing Done. For Now, Anyway.

Done! The City of Spokane says it finished plowing all routes yesterday, with the exception of some cul-de-sacs scattered throughout the City.

Street crews completed the full-City plow in about four days with the help of private contractors, who have now been released. However, City officials say it's possible that crews may have missed blocks here and there. Citizens should call 625-7733 to report an unplowed section.

Local Rider Hit By Car Needs Moral Support

Bike to Work Barb is on a mission, and is asking for your help. She's trying to help a local woman get back on her bike again, after being hit by a car. It sounds like 'Bike Shop Girl' is physically recovered from the incident but isn't over it emotionally. She wants to get back out there, but is nervous about it, as any normal person would be. So Barb is asking for a little moral support from you. Here's how you can help.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Very Latest On Plowing

I just received another snow update from the City. Because it contains a lot of info I've already posted in the past few days, I'm just going to include new info and the highlights:

- Crews continue to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to complete a full City plow, including all residential areas.

- Citizens need to move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street in the residential areas.

- Graders are being used to do an initial cut down the center of the streets and truck plows are moving the material to the side of the road. Private contractors with graders are assisting with the plowing effort.

- The full City plow likely may take longer than usual because of the slushy/icy conditions. The berms left at the end of driveways are heavy and difficult to move, especially if temperatures drop as expected over the weekend.

- Plow work has been completed in residential plow route 5 on the South Hill, and plows are working in portions of 2, 3, and 4 on the South. On the North Side, plows have completed parts of plow routes 9 and 13 and are continuing work in those areas, as well as in portions of routes 8 and 10.

Here is the link to the plow route map. Due to very heavy traffic, you may experience delays using it.

Here's info that just came in from the County:

- Currently, County crews are using approximately 60 pieces of equipment and five private contractors with graders have been hired. Together they have moved into residential neighborhoods – especially in the northern and southeast sections of the County.

- Road crews will continue to work 24/7 to clear the entire County road system by Sunday morning.

For more information, here's the County's snow removal website.

Mystery Stop Signs Didn't Install Themselves

Here's an interesting, yet kind of frightening, story out of Rhode Island. Apparently nearly 700 stop signs recently popped up in the city of Cranston that hadn't been approved, or installed, by the City.

A month-long (that's right, it took an entire month to get to the bottom of this) investigation, installed at intersections with state roads, showed they were installed by the state Department of Transportation, following a state statute that requires drivers to stop before entering a state road.

This is part of why SRTC exists; to make sure all the area jurisdictions are communicating when it comes to transportation projects. Twice a month, we all sit down in a room and discuss what everyone's doing. Once a month its with the elected officials that make the decisions (SRTC Board meetings) and the other time its at our Transportation Technical Committee meeting, when the engineers and planners behind the projects discuss the technical aspects of what they're working on. Keep in mind that you're always welcome to attend.

Drugged Driving Numbers Going Up

Everyone knows that drunk driving causes traffic accidents, but new statistics are showing that about 1 in 5 drivers who were killed last year in car crashes tested positive for drugs.

That's nearly 4,000 drivers who were killed in 2009, or 18% of the nearly 22,000 drivers killed last year. Here's more from KLEW News on what the National Highway Safety Adminstration is calling a growing problem.

Thanksgiving Travel Numbers In- And They're Down From '09

Washington State Department Of Transportation’s traffic data is in for the long Thanksgiving weekend and it shows 33% fewer drivers traveled over Snoqualmie Pass and 45% fewer traveled over Stevens Pass compared to the same weekend in '09.

WSDOT tracks holiday travel in locations where travel increases significantly on long weekends. Here are their numbers for this year.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Apple Cup Alert

The Washington State Department of Transportation is warning Apple Cup fans traveling into the Palouse for the big game to prepare for winter driving conditions. Snow and high winds continue to hammer the Palouse region. WSDOT will have its crews and snow equipment out fighting the storms. Apple Cup routes are a priority and additional crews will shift into the Palouse as needed and available to help keep roads open and clear.

Council Members To Navigate City Hall From Wheelchairs

Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan and Council Member Jon Snyder will observe International Day of Persons with Disabilities from wheelchairs tomorrow, Dec. 3.

The exercise, sponsored by the Spokane Human Rights Commission, is designed to bring awareness to persons with disabilities and provide elected officials with greater understanding. The two Council Members will spend the morning at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., in wheelchairs, then discuss their experiences at 11 a.m.

The goal is to increase the understanding of the issues around disabilities and focus on the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. So what's that have to do with transportation? A lot.

A lovely lady named Jenny with Lou Gehrig's disease came to a SRTC Board meeting a couple years ago and told us of her challenges getting around. It's hard for her to push the button to signal she wants to cross the street because many of the buttons are placed on poles inside of decorative rock beds or in grassy areas that her power chair can't navigate. There are also many narrow sidewalks around town and sidewalks with poles and signs in the middle of them that folks in chairs can't navigate around. Getting on and off the bus is often difficult because bus stops aren't built to accomodate wheelchairs and weather like this makes it almost difficult to operate a chair. In fact, here's a piece from KXLY news on how weather conditions is making getting around very difficult for one disabled man.

Thursday Snow Update

Spokane County: – Spokane County crews have had to repeatedly return to plowing/sanding emergency routes, primary arterials and secondary roads (in that order). And while some neighborhood areas have been plowed at least once, others are still waiting. Current conditions are further complicated by warmer temperatures that have melted the floor of compact snow and ice. As motorists break through, vehicles become stuck in the churned up slush and/or rutted surfaces.

Currently, County crews are using approximately 80 pieces of equipment and will move into residential areas later today. This morning, the County authorized hiring private contractors to assist in clearing residential areas.

For more information on County snow removal, go to their website here.

Spokane City: The City of Spokane is declaring a new Stage 2 Snow Emergency today, Dec. 2, which means crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full City plow that includes all residential areas.

Within 12 hours—or by 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2—citizens must move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street within the residential area. Parking is restricted in downtown between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to facilitate plowing there. And no parked cars are allowed on arterials or STA fixed bus routes.

Last night’s rain and heavy snow mix converted snow-packed secondary arterials and residential streets into a slushy mess with deep ruts. The City’s truck plows are having a difficult time moving the heavy material so the City will need to rely more on graders. The City has 10 graders in its fleet and is calling in a dozen private contractors with graders to help with the effort. They also are looking into renting graders.

To check the progress of City plows, go to the City website. You can type in your address to get a closer look at your area.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Airport Delays and Cancellations

This weather isn't just slowing down people travelling on the roads, but there have been some cancellations and delays at the airport too. So be sure to check your flight here before you leave home.

I just checked and it looks like most flights are on time now, but one to Seattle was cancelled. Earlier this morning was a different story though. My parents haven't been on a vacation in years where they actually flew somewhere just to have fun. So I was shocked when they booked a trip to Maui. They were so excited when I drove them to Spokane International Airport last night. They were a lot less excited when I talked to them this morning and they were STILL at the airport. Their first flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems and their second was delayed by several hours due to weather. They were switched to another flight and were supposed to be getting on a plane around 9:30 this morning. I haven't heard from them since so they must have gotten out of there. They said there were a LOT of other people waiting for cancelled and delayed flights as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Player Blogs About Game Experience

Sorry folks, but you timed out as far as playing the Transportation Planning game. Our consultant team removed the link to it early this morning. We had one late-night player last night though, and she not only played the game, but documented her choices and reasoning on her own blog. Here's a link to it if you want to check it out.

Some Local Rail History

I'm being evicted from my office. No, I haven't been fired (not that anyone has told me anyway), but I am being moved out of my office so the boss lady can have it. Instead of moving five years worth of junk to a new office, I've been going through it getting rid of stuff. During the cleaning process, I found the picture below in my file cabinet. I have no idea where it came from. I've seen a lot of old pictures of Spokane, but never that one. I thought it was pretty cool because it shows the old rail yard through what is now Riverfront Park. While we still see lots of trains come through here, the need for a rail yard has greatly diminished as most of those trains are just passing through.

Happy Birthday You Old Airbag!

Although perhaps not as influential as the seatbelt, the airbag’s contribution to vehicle safety is significant – and it's being recognized this week because it's the 30th birthday of the airbag.

Here are some airbag 'fun facts:'

- The first car to have an airbag was a Mercedes.
- The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say airbags have saved more than 28,000 lives in the US alone
- The control systems for airbags have the processing power of the ‘supercomputers’ used in space exploration 25 years ago

Want to know more about airbags? You asked for it, from Traffic Technology Today.

Street Signs Taking Wintery Weather Hard

With all the snow lately, there have been some 'silent victims' of the dozens of slide offs, fender benders and collisions. That's right, street signs. They're taking a beating in this weather. But don't feel bad if you hit one. You won't face legal problems. The City of Spokane just wants you to let them know so they can replace it quickly and avoid legal issues of their own. KXLY news has the story.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Last Chance To Play Planning Game

Okay, I mean it this time. If you haven't played the Transportation Planning Game, this is literally your last chance. The game is online until around 5 p.m. tonight, SO GET ON THERE AND PLAY IT IF YOU HAVEN'T YET. Here's the link. Get going now.

No Bricklayer Required For This Brick Road

Spokane has some really cool brick roads under the current pavement. Bricks are beautiful and durable, so why don't they make roads out of them any longer? Because it takes a huge effort to produce them.

The invention of a new machine that rolls out an almost 'instant road' could change all that though. Here's how the 'Tiger-Stone' works.

Valley Snow Removal Plan In Effect

It was two years ago when the City of Spokane Valley lost its' contract with Spokane County to do their snow removal. We didn't have much snow last year so it wasn't much of an issue. But now that we're getting dumped on, how is the City of Spokane Valley keeping up with snow removal? Pretty well,
according to this Spokane Valley Herald article.

I drive through the Valley on a pretty regular basis and haven't noticed any major snow problems recently. Any Valley residents have any input?

Winter Driving Tips

Slow down, turn into your skid, and tell someone about your travel plans and your estimated time of arrival. Those are just a couple of the winter driving tips in today's 'Getting There' column from the Spokesman-Review.

Spokane City and County Snow Update

From Spokane County:

Spokane County Road Crews have finished plowing and sanding emergency routes, primary arterials, most secondary roads, and have now started working to clear hills and residential areas.

Crews are working 12-hour shifts around the clock to cover all 2,500 miles of road in the County. The goal is to finish all of the residential areas before the next storm arrives tonight. For more information on snow removal on County roads, click here.

From the City of Spokane:

The City of Spokane continues to work under a Stage 2 Snow Emergency, which means City crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full City plow that includes all residential areas. Crews anticipate finishing work in the residential areas by early Tuesday, just in time for the next round of snow.

The City will plow Browne’s Addition on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. North-south streets are planned for Tuesday and east-west streets on Wednesday. Because streets in Browne’s Addition are very narrow, all cars must be moved to accommodate the plows. Cars that aren’t moved will be towed.

Click here to check the progress of City plows. Residents can type in their address on the top of the snow plowing progress map to get a closer look at their area.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Car Warming Up 'Borrowed'

You here it every year, DON'T LEAVE YOUR CAR UNATTENDED WHILE WARMING IT UP. Here's why: A Coeur d'Alene man recently caught up to his car as it was leaving his driveway, to be told by the young man inside that he was 'borrowing it.' Yeah, I've heard that one before.

Here's what happened, from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Travel Expected To Be Up This Holiday Weekend

Travel nationwide over the Thanksgiving holiday is expected to increase by more than 11 percentthis year.

AAA is predicting over 42 million people will take to the roads, rails and skies this week. Here are the numbers from the Spokesman-Review.

Holiday Closures

Here's your usual reminder that, due to the holiday tomorrow, all local government offices will be closed Thursday and Friday.

That includes SRTC, Spokane City Hall, Spokane Valley City Hall, Liberty Lake City Hall, any other local City hall, Municipal Court, and all Spokane County offices, including Superior and District Court.

The good news though is that if you're downtown on Friday, you don't have to plug parking meters. Normal meter use rules apply the rest of the weekend.

Any remaining road construction work was suspended at noon today so as to not slow down holiday travel traffic.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Afternoon Roadways Updates

I just received updates from the City of Spokane, Spokane County and the Washington State Department of Transportation on the snow situation. Here's the County's latest:

Last night's snow and wind caused 8-10 foot drifts in parts of southern Spokane County. Fortunately, the snow's powdery consistency made it relatively easy for road crews to plow. This afternoon, crews are working 12 hours shifts to clear more than 2,500 miles of road with approximately 80 pieces of equipment. Crews have finished primary arterials and are making progress on secondary roads and hills. With more snow in the forecast this week, they will have to return to plowing primary arterials, etc. and it may take several days before all of the residential areas are cleared.

Crews are working with plows, sanding trucks and graders – but current temperatures are too cold for liquid de-icer to be effective. Granular de-icer is being combined with sand and applied in high-volume intersections.

The public can assist snow removal efforts by moving cars off of streets and roads.

And the City's:

City crews have made great progress today, and the City expects to have Stage 1 Snow Emergency lifted overnight after crews complete the full plow of the arterials and bus routes.

And WSDOT's:

Although WSDOT crews are out in force clearing roadways, they cannot be everywhere at once and there are some roadways with compact snow and ice. Drivers should be prepared, carry chains, slow down and schedule extra time to reach your destination safely. Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady spots. These all have potential to develop black ice that makes driving hazardous.

And It Begins

The City of Spokane just put out their weekly update of construction projects, weather closures, areas to avoid, etc. and the item below was included. It's officially that time of year now.

Shoppers leaving the River Park Square parking garage during the holiday season may experience longer than normal wait times due to traffic back-ups. Additionally, motorists near City Hall and the garage exit may also experience longer wait times. Flaggers will direct traffic. The holiday flagger schedule is as follows:

o Friday, Nov. 26: 5 to 9 p.m.
o Saturday, Nov. 27: 3 to 9 p.m.
o Friday, Dec. 17: 5 to 9 p.m.
o Saturday, Dec. 18: 5 to 9 p.m.
o Thursday, Dec. 23: 5 to 9 p.m.
o Sunday, Dec. 26: 1 to 6 p.m.

Shoppers and motorists near NorthTown Mall during the holiday season may experience delays due to traffic back-ups. Flaggers will direct traffic. The holiday flagger schedule is as follows:

o Friday, Nov. 26: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
o Saturday, Nov. 27: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
o Saturday, Dec. 11: 4 to 8 p.m.
o Sunday, Dec. 12: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
o Monday, Dec. 13, to Tuesday, Dec. 21: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
o Wednesday, Dec. 22: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
o Thursday & Friday, Dec. 23 & 24: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
o Saturday, Jan. 1: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

SRTC Special Board Meeting

The SRTC Board has called a special Board Meeting for Monday, November 29 at 9 a.m. here at SRTC.  The meeting will move directly into an Executive Session to discuss the performance of a public employee. Board action may be taken following the Executive Session.

Council Talks Impact Fees Again

The Spokane City Council is considering impact fees again. It was originally agreed two years ago to collect one-time impact fees from developers of projects that generate additional traffic demands on City facilities, but has been on hold since then. A new version of the the fees being considered would require schools, low-income housing projects, homeless shelters, hospitals and governments to also pay the fees.

Here's what's under consideration from the Spokesman-Review.

Most Wanted List- Of Improvements To Keep You Safe

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a list of critical transportation improvements they feel are needed to reduce transportation accidents and save lives.

The NTSB is an independent agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents and promoting transportation safety. The Board investigates accidents, conducts safety studies, and evaluates the effectiveness of other government agencies' programs for preventing transportation accidents.

The Board develops safety recommendations, based on its investigations and studies, which are issued to Federal, State and local government agencies, and to industry and other organizations in a position to improve transportation safety.

Here are their most recent recommendations. Check them out and let me know if you agree with all of their suggestions. For instance, one item on their list is statewide sobriety checkpoints, which some people feel violates their right to not be stopped without probably cause. They also suggest 'reducing rear-end collisions through use of adaptive cruise control and collision warning system technologies.' Sounds great, but are the car manufacturers going to agree to something that will cost them more?

Road Closures And WSDOT Requests

Here are road closures this morning due to low visibility and/or blowing snow:

- Highway 27 (Spokane and Whitman counties)
- Highway 21 (Lind to Wilbur)
- Highway 261 (Interstate 90 to Highway 26)
- State Highway 28 that runs from Davenport through Odessa in Lincoln County to Ephrata.
- State Highway 23 near Harrington
- U.S. Highway 195 from Colfax to Idaho state line southeast of Uniontown has reopened this morning, but chains are required.

Because of all these closures, the Washington State Department of Transportation is asking drivers to please delay their Thanksgiving weekend travel plans if they can until the weather lets up.

The forecast calls for snow on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass all week. WSDOT advises motorists to consider leaving early, Wednesday, Nov. 24, and returning later, Monday, Nov. 29.

WSDOT is ready for the expected increased traffic for the Thanksgiving holiday and wants you to be too. So check roadway and pass conditions before leaving, and pack winter weather supplies, including tire chains.

City Declares 'Stage 1 Snow Emergency'

The City of Spokane has called a 'Stage 1 Snow Emergency,' which requires cars to be moved from all arterials and STA fixed bus routes within six hours.

Under the City’s snow removal plan, officials can call for such an emergency when there is at least 2 inches of snow on the ground and four or more in the forecast. A Stage 1 Snow Emergency does not trigger plowing in residential areas.

All arterials and bus routes were plowed yesterday and City crews are working on them again now. They expect to finish this round of arterial plowing late today. After that they'll tackle secondary arterials and fixed STA bus routes.

The City currently has more than 20 plows out. Night crew members were kept late, and morning staff was called in early to have 24-hour coverage during the current storm. You can follow the progress of the plows on the City's website.

If you're literally following a plow, don't follow too closely and don't try to pass them; as it's VERY dangerous.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Only 1 More Week To Play Transportation Planning Game

Okay folks, your time is running out to express your opinion on the future of transportation in Spokane. You've only got one more week to play 'A Thousand Visions- A Transportation Planning Game.'

The game is part of our Transportation Vision Project that is aimed at developing a long term transportation plan for all of Spokane County, including an implementation plan. It's online here, on the Transportation Vision Project website.

The game lets you decide how much you're willing to be taxed, which dictates how much money you have to spend on transportation 'improvements.' From there, you work through a list of possible future projects and 'fund' the ones that are a priority.

Results from the game will give us an idea how people want their transportation dollars spent in the future. The game is online through Monday, Nov. 29. I figure it's kind of like voting; if you don't do it, you can't complain later if things don't go your way.

And don't forget that there's something in it for you. If you complete the game in its entirety, your name goes into a drawing for a TomTom GPS unit.

Snow Update From The City Of Spokane

The City of Spokane just sent out the following 'Snow Update:'

With a couple inches of snow on the ground, City of Spokane street crews have been out since the early hours of the morning Monday plowing snow and putting down de-icer on City streets.

Crews concentrated first on hills and now are working on arterials throughout the City. With snowfall now tapered off, the City is working to improve driving conditions before very cold weather sets in tonight.

Meanwhile, the City has opened warming shelters for the homeless tonight at the Salvation Army for families, Hope House for single women, and House of Charity for single men. Shelter space is still available at Crosswalk for youth/teens.

Citizens can check the progress of the plows on the arterials on the City’s web site by clicking here: Click on “Snow Plowing Progress Map.” This web page also includes overall information on the City’s snow removal plan.

Plow route maps and other snow removal information also can be found in the City’s utility bills in November, in the current edition of the Inlander, and in last Thursday’s Voice sections in the Spokesman-Review.

The Street Department and the Spokane Police Department remind motorists to slow down and drive with caution today.

Group Releases Strategic Plan For Walking In America

America Walks, a nonprofit organization that leads a national coalition of local advocacy groups dedicated to promoting walkable communities, has recently released a draft strategic plan for 2011-2013. The plan includes three focus areas; creating a national unified voice for pedestrians, advancing and defending walking policies, and advancing Community-based campaigns that restore walkability in America.

The strategic plan is available for review and comment. You can take a look at it here. and email comments here by the deadline of December 3.

Here's the American Walks website in case you want to learn more about the organization.

Valley Council Approves Speed Limit Changes

The City of Spokane Valley changed the speed limit in a couple areas last week to make conditions safer for children trying to get to school. Here are the changes from the Spokane Valley News Herald.

Developer Wants Signal At Ruby & Boone

The developer of a hotel in the old Burgans building is asking for a traffic signal to be installed at Ruby and Boone and a DUI emphasis patrol kicks off this week and goes through the new year.

Here's what's happening on the local transportation scene this week from the Spokesman's 'Getting There' column.

Wintery Weather Makes Mess Of Roadways

If you're anywhere besides home, you know what a mess it is out on the roads this morning. It was a heck of a long bus ride to get here but I'm here, and in one piece.

I saw a couple slideoffs but nothing major; mostly traffic was just moving slowly, which is good considering the conditions. The Monroe Street hill was closed due to being super slick. Here's a roundup from the Spokesman-Review of other things happening this morning due to the weather.

This is a perfect time to remind you by the way to check the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center website before heading out on the roads. That way you'd know about closures like Monroe and can plan around them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

City Wrapping Up Projects

The City of Spokane is cranking out projects now. Here's what they've finished this week:

- Second Ave. from Sunset Blvd. to Howard St. remains reduced to one lane of traffic until this evening’s commute when the street will reopen to traffic. Additional work will be done in the spring of 2011 when the project will have the top lift of asphalt and permanent striping placed.

The $2.1 million project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and City of Spokane Water and Wastewater Departments.

- Addison and Standard streets from Francis Ave. to Colton Pl. have reopened to traffic. Additional work will be done in the spring of 2011, when the top lift of asphalt will be laid from Lincoln Rd. to Colton Pl. Once completed, the project will rehabilitate Addison and Standard streets from Francis Ave. to Colton Pl. and Beacon Ave. from Dakota to Nevada streets, and upgrades to the stormwater drains and new ADA curb ramps will have been installed.

The $1.7 million project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and City of Spokane Wastewater Department.

- Madison, Adams, and Jefferson Streets from Fourth to Sprague avenues has reopened to traffic and the streets are repaired, including the historic brick gutter that was repaired from First to Second avenues.

The $1.1 million project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond.

Airway Heights Passes Complete Streets Ordinance

Congratulations to the City of Airway Heights, which recently passed a Complete Streets ordinance. For those not familiar with Complete Streets, it's a movement to design streets for convenient access for all users, not just drivers of private vehicles, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit vehicles, freight and people of all ages and abilities.

I just learned something new about Complete Streets today; Washington has the most complete streets policies of all the states. That's pretty impressive for us, I think. Here's Complete Streets info- by the numbers.

LaHood Proposes Cell Phone Blocking Devices In Cars

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says technology that automatically disables cellphones in cars could become mandatory. It's part of his 'Faces of Distracted Driving' campaign, which aims to make motorists aware of the dangers of using their phones while on the road.

Besides a few problems with the idea (how expensive the move would be to car manufacturers, passengers not being able to use their phones either, etc.), some people say this measure is extreme.

The author of this article at even compares it to outlawing the transport of alcohol in vehicles, if you were to compare the issue to the anti-drinking and driving campaign.

2011 Second Ave. Project Update

I ran out of time to blog about this yesterday, but I did attend the City of Spokane's Second Avenue meeting on Wednesday evening. Starting in late March of 2011, the City plans a project to rehabilitate another part of Second Avenue, from Howard to Arthur streets.

When I posted the original meeting announcement, someone asked if there are going to be bike lanes on this section when the project is complete. The current answer is no. This project is a 10-year Street Bond project, meaning it will be reconstructed curb-to-curb, but other ammenities will not be added unless extra money is found somewhere.

The City doesn't have information on this project online anywhere, but City Spokesperson Ann Deasy said she's open to emails from anyone who has questions, so ask away.

Give The New WSDOT Website A Test Drive

The Washington State Department of Transportation is working on a new website to get travel information out to you more efficiently. And they want your feedback on what they've got so far. So check it out here and let the good folks at WSDOT know if this works for you or if you have other 'needs' you would like to see addressed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Councilmember Snyder Asked; You Answered

Wow, Spokane City Councilmember Jon Snyder has been busy. Busy reading your email, that is. He asked folks on his blog about how we should make up the massive shortfall in real estate excise tax (REET) that used to fund our road repair and he got some pretty interesting answers. Check them out here then let me know if you have any ideas that weren't included on that list.

Wandermere Road Closure For Monday

On Monday Nov. 22, Wandermere Road from US 395 to approximately 50 feet south of the Wandermere Estates and Golf Course entrance will be closed beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until 3 p.m. as part of the project to build bridges connecting the North Spokane Corridor to existing US 395 at Wandermere.

Tandem Bike Rally Coming To Spokane

The bicycle movement in Spokane continues to grow. I know it's winter and it snowed today, but I'm already planning ahead to summer for you, so mark your calendar for this event in early July. While digging around on the internet last night, I found out that Spokane will host the Northwest Tandem Rally in 2011!

The Rally includes a variety of events over several days. Here's more information on what is planned. Now I just need to find a tandem bike before July. And a co-pilot. I guess I could take Traci, my evil twin and fill-in blogger, but she doesn't have any legs to pedal.

Who Needs High Speed Rail When You've Got High Speed Buses?

With the recent elections came a shift in the thought process for several states involving transportation. "All across the country, in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, the voters chose new governors who are opposed to diverting transportation funding to passenger rail," said Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "I believe it would be unwise for the Obama administration to ignore the will of the voters." Here's more on his push for roads, not rails.

Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich (R) asked the Obama administration for permission to repurpose $400 million in high-speed rail funds for highway projects. Kasich says Ohio doesn't need the project. But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Ohio would forfeit the money it doesn't use for high-speed rail.

When the state funds are rejected, LaHood said Monday night, they will be redistributed "in a professional way in places where the money can be well spent."

As always, though, The Onion has ferreted out a solution to this dilemma:
President Obama's proposed high-speed train system will be replaced with a fleet of buses that will rocket along highways at speeds up to 165 mph.

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fishy Situation On I90

It must have been like swimming upstream against the current this morning for drivers on I90 when a semi truck there dumped a load of salmon all over the road. Here's the story, and pictures, from KREM 2 News.

Pedestrian Crossing Road Hit By Car

There's been another case of a car in the right lane stopping to let a pedestrian cross the road, then a car in the next lane hitting the walker. That's what happened yesterday when a Gonzaga University student tried to cross busy Mission Avenue at Astor Street.

The woman allegedly was knocked out of her shoes and landed nearly 70 feet away from where she was hit. She suffered serious injuries and was taken to a local hospital, but her condition isn't clear today.

The driver of the minivan that hit her has not been cited at this point.

Another Reminder To Play The Transportation Planning Game

A big thank you to the Down to Earth Northwest blog for posting info and a link to the Transportation Vision Game. I need all the help I can get putting the word out there about it. So if you haven't played it, what are you waiting for? Do I have to come to your house and walk through it with you? That can be arranged you know.

Time is running out. The game goes offline on Nov. 29., so get playing! Here's the link. Don't forget that you can win a TomTom GPS unit just for playing. A lot of people are playing the game, but not everyone is submitting their information to be entered in the drawing, so your odds are pretty good.

TAC Meeting On Monday

For those of you who took all of next week off because of the Thanksgiving holiday and don't have anything to do on Monday, come down and watch our Transportation Advisory Committee meeting. Here's a look at the meeting agenda and packet so you can see if anything interests you. And notice that there's a public comment item on there, meaning if you have something to say about transportation, that's your chance. The meeting is at 3 p.m. at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310 in our conference room.

And if anyone isn't doing anything today, we've been having some questions behind the scenes on this blog, so I'll be doing a social media presentation at the Transportation Technical Committee meeting. That starts at 1:30, also in our conference room. If you're reading this, you could probably offer some insight into social media yourself.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Moving Day- Literally

My friends John and Angela sold their cool old rental house to the Washington State Department of Transportation earlier this year because it will eventually be in the way of the North Spokane Corridor construction. The house was recently moved to a location just a few blocks away from its original home and John and Angela were there with their camera to document the move. I think these are really cool pictures and wanted to share them. John and Angela agreed and said they were really happy with the way things worked out. They said the WSDOT was good to work with, made them a fair deal, and they were especially pleased that the house was relocated, not just demolished.

A New Winter Activity- Watching Snow Plow Progress

Here's something kind of cool; next winter, Spokane County residents may be able to follow the progress of snowplows- on the internet! Some road graders and plow trucks are being equipped with global positioning system devices that show where road crews are and what they’re doing.

There are a couple kinks to be worked out first though- such as how to post the info so that people don't approach plow operators with demands for service. Here's how the system will work.

I think this is kind of a cool idea, but some people I've talked to say they would rather see the money go somewhere else. What do you think?

City Delays Vote On $20 Car Tab Fee

A final decision on whether to impose a local tab tax of $20 within the City of Spokane was delayed last night by the City Council. Why? Because the City wants to wait and see if the City’s largest union will agree to concessions that could help balance the budget, meaning the tab increase may not be needed.

Here's the Spokesman-Review story. There is the option that the City could go ahead and collect the $20 tab fee even if the union makes concession. What's your thoughts? Should they do so and put the money into the rainy day fund? Or where would you like to see the money go?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Changes To The NSC/US 2 Interchange Schedule

There are a couple of changes on the North Spokane Corridor/US 2 Interchange project you should be aware of:

The paving of Shady Slope Road planned for this week has been postponed to spring of 2011. The announcement didn't say why but I'm guessing it's weather-related.

And work to install reflective pavement markers on US 2 has been moved up a day. that means, on Wednesday night, November 17th from 7 p.m. to as late as 6 a.m. the following morning, the markers will be installed from Farwell Road to Deer Road. The markers make it easier for drivers to see the lane lines at night and during rain. To safely install the markers, southbound US 2 traffic will be routed to Market Street at SR 206 to Farwell Road, then back to US 2. Northbound traffic will be reduced to one lane through the jobsite.

Monday Morning Elk Sighting

This isn't the best picture because I took it with the world's worst cell phone camera just as it was getting light this morning, but it gives you an idea of the other critters out there who are also using our roadways. This was a herd of about 30 elk in a field out by Stateline. They were alongside the road, but started crossing right after I went by, causing delays for a couple cars behind me. So slow down out there, especially in the dark. There are animals crossing the road, and they don't really care if there's one of those 'deer crossing' signs up or not.

Drowsy Driving In The News

Drowsy driving, leaf pickup and a public meeting for the next phase of the Second Avenue construction project are all in the news this week. Here's what's happening from the Spokesman's 'Getting There' column.

New Meters Concern Citizen

Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder has started a new feature on his blog where he periodically answers questions he receives from citizens. This week's question pertains to the installation of new parking meters on Adams Street. The writer expresses concern that neighborhood residents weren't notified of the new meters and that it will significantly cut into the budgets of those folks, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

Here's Mr. Snyder's response. After reading Councilman Snyder's reply, does anyone still have heartburn about the new meters? Just curious.

Mayor Kicks Off Snow Season

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner kicked off the 'snow season' with a news conference this morning, to inform citizens about how the City has prepared for winter weather and to encourage citizens to prepare as well.

The City’s snow removal plan is designed to improve safety for motorists and pedestrians, ensure emergency responders can reach citizens, and enhance movement for pedestrians, motorists and economic activity.

The City is committed to enhancing snow removal efforts, stepping up sidewalk snow removal around City-owned property, and enhancing communications efforts with citizens. Citizens and business owners, meanwhile, are asked to follow parking restrictions and keep sidewalks, vehicles, hydrants, and storm drains clear of snow.

Details of the snow removal plan, along with a map of residential snow plow routes, will be available in the Nov. 18 Inlander and Spokesman-Review Voice sections.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SRTC Board & TTC Meetings Next Week

It's going to be a busy week for us here at SRTC next week. On Wednesday we have the Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting at 1:30 p.m. in our conference room at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310. Here's the agenda for that.

And the next day, Thursday, Nov. 18, is the SRTC Board meeting. The two meetings don't usually fall that close together, but because the Board meeting fell on Veterans Day originally, we postponed it a week so everyone can be there. Here's the agenda for that meeting. It's also in the SRTC conference room.

As always, everyone is welcome to attend so come down and voice any transportation issues/concerns/comments you may have.

A Couple (Almost) Completed Projects

- 11th Ave. from Altamont to Thor streets has reopened to traffic, after work to install a new water line. A handful of streets were repaired following the project, including 11th Ave. from Altamont Blvd. to Julia St. and N. Altamont Blvd. from 11th to Ninth avenues; and Ninth Ave. from Perry to Julia streets. Additional work will be done in the spring, when the remaining part of the main will be installed from Thor to Havana streets. The overall project will replace a water transmission main with a larger main in Hartson and 11th avenues from Havana to Sherman streets.

The $3.5 million project is funded by the City of Spokane Water Department and the 10-Year Street Bond.

- Addison and Standard streets from Francis Ave. to Colton Pl. is expected to reopen to traffic next Friday, Nov. 19. Additional work will be done in the spring of 2011, when the top lift of asphalt will be laid from Lincoln Rd. to Colton Pl. Once completed, the project will rehabilitate Addison and Standard streets from Francis Ave. to Colton Pl. and Beacon Ave. from Dakota to Nevada streets.

The $1.7 million project is being funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and City of Spokane Wastewater Department.

Public Meeting For New Secon Ave. Project Next Week

Mark your calendar, because the City of Spokane has your evening tied up on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

In 2011, the City of Spokane is planning a project to rehabilitate another part of Second Avenue, from Howard to Arthur streets. A public meeting will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 4:30 p.m. at the Spokane Public Library Downtown branch, 906 W. Main Ave., Room 1-A.

The meeting is aimed at teaching you about the project expected impacts to businesses and traffic.

Shweeb- It's Like A Monorail Only You Power It

So what's the future of personal transportation? A member of Spokane's Bicycle Advisory Board introduced me 'Shweeb' and thinks it could possibly be the next big thing. Shweeb is an integration of the monorail and the recumbent bicycle- kind of like our gondolas only on a smaller scale, and powered by you. So not only are you getting where you need to go, but you're also getting exercise doing it.

Currently Shweeb is only available as a ride at an amusement park in New Zealand, but it's creators think it could be built in a city somewhere as a public transit system. Here's the Shweeb website in case you want to contact the company to have one installed in your backyard.

And here is a video about how Shweeb works. It looks pretty cool, if you can get past the creepiness of 'Dermett' the show host, long enough to watch it.

What are the pros and cons you see about Shweeb? Think people would use it if it was built here or are we Americans too lazy and too in love with our cars?

A Couple Items To Be Aware Of From WSDOT

- Beginning at 6 a.m. on Monday, November 15th through Sunday, November 21st, Shady Slope Road from Farwell Road to the US 2 bridge will be restricted to a single lane, alternating traffic. Crews will be paving Shady Slope. Flaggers will direct traffic while the lane restriction is in effect.

- On Thursday, November 18th 2010, from 7 p.m. to as late as 6 a.m. the following morning, crews will be installing recessed pavement markers on US 2 from Farwell Road to Deer Road. The markers will make it easier for motorist to see lane lines at night and when it rains. To safely install the markers, southbound US 2 traffic will be routed to Market Street at SR 206 to Farwell Road, then back to US 2. The northbound traffic will be reduced to one lane through the jobsite.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When Will The Political Signs Come Down?

The Washington State Department of Transportation is reminding property owners it’s time to remove those political signs that are visible from state highways. The Highway Advertising Control Act (you've all read that one right?) “declares that sign control adjacent to state highways is necessary to assure that information of interest to the traveling public is presented safely and effectively, and to conserve the natural beauty of our roadsides.”

That sounds like a big job. So how does WSDOT make it happen? Find out on the WSDOT blog.

And a reminder for those of you who post lost pet or garage sale signs; no signs (other than those used for traffic control) are allowed within the state right-of-way.

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.