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: http://www.spokanestreetdepartment.org/snowplow.htm. 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 Gizmodo.com 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.

Thursday is A Holiday But SRTC Will Be Open

Thursday is the Veterans Day holiday, so hurry up and get your government business done today or wait until Friday.

Local City Halls will be closed, as will most other government offices and facilities, including the County. SRTC will be open and the City’s Municipal Court employees will be working and available by phone on Thursday.

And good news for those of you who want to come downtown to mark the holiday, parking meters do not need to be plugged on Thursday.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

SRTMC Helps Drivers Avoid Winter Driving Delays

I heard a four letter word on the news this morning. That's right. Snow. Is it too early to start saying 'Bah Humbug?' because that's how I feel. Snow if fun to play in- for a while- but driving in it gets old REAL fast. All those collisions, closed roads, slideoffs, etc. can really slow you down.

So how to avoid all that mess? By using the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) website. The site is high-tech and real-time with information for all of Spokane County. 24-hours a day you can watch over 70 live traffic cameras, read about incidents that are automatically updated as they happen, and be alerted to road closures and delays to plan your commute to avoid backups and dangerous areas.

SRTMC staff monitor the traffic cameras to identify any trouble areas and alert the proper authorities before a minor problem becomes a major backup. And they have a really cool new video wall in there (shown in the picture) that I think needs to be hijacked for a Super Bowl party. Unfortunately, no one listens to me around here.

Meeting Explains Process Of Transportation Planning

If you're wondering what it is we do here at SRTC, you should come to our 'Planning Assumptions' meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. Myself and our Transportation Planning Supervisor Anna will be hosting the meeting to walk anyone who is interested through the process of how transportation planning work. That includes how SRTC is staffed, where we get our direction and work assignments, how computer 'modeling' programs work, the basic steps involved in a transportation study, and how air quality analysis plays into transportation planning.

We do this meeting every year to reach out to members of the public who may be interested in transportation but are not familiar with how decisions are made behind the scenes.

The meeting is from 4-6 p.m. Our presentation doesn't take that long, so if you come down, you most likely won't be stuck here for two hours. We do want to provide plenty of time for questions or to talk one-on-one with you though if you're interested. The meeting will be in SRTC's conference room at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

City Leaf Pickup Starts Sunday

Leaf pickup within the City of Spokane starts Sunday, Nov. 14, and runs until the third week in December, weather dependent. Crews generally begin on Spokane’s North Side work their way to the South Hill.

The City asks residents to watch the leaf pickup schedule and move their vehicles from the streets when crews will be in their neighborhoods.

The leaf pickup schedule for Nov. 14 through Nov. 18, from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. is as follows:

Sunday, Nov. 14—Woodridge Area: south of north City limits, north of Barnes Rd., west of Wieber Dr., and east of Comanche Dr.
Pacific Park: south of Barnes St., north of Sutherlin Dr., west of Farmdale St., and east of Forest Blvd.

Driscoll Area: south of Wellesley Ave., north of Garland Ave., west of Belt St., and east of Northwest Blvd.

Audubon Area: south of Garland Ave., north of Northwest Blvd., west of Monroe St., and east of Northwest Blvd.

Monday, Nov. 15— Pacific Park: south of Barnes St., north of Sutherlin Dr., west of Farmdale St., and east of Forest Blvd.

Driscoll Area: south of Wellesley Ave., north of Garland Ave., west of Belt St., and east of Northwest Blvd.

Shadle Park: south of Wellesley Ave., north of Garland Ave., west of Wall St., and east of Belt St.

Audubon Area: south of Garland Ave., north of Northwest Blvd., west of Monroe St., and east of Northwest Blvd.

Downriver Area: south of Northwest Blvd., north of Riverview Dr., west of Meenach Dr., and east of Columbia Circle.

Tuesday, Nov. 16— Indian Trail Rd. Area: south of Johansen Rd., north of Francis Ave., west of Cedar St., and east of Nine Mile Rd.

Shadle Park: south of Wellesley Ave., north of Garland Ave., west of
Wall St., and east of Belt St.

Downriver Area: south of Northwest Blvd., north of Riverview Dr., west of Meenach Dr., and east of Columbia Circle.

Northwest Blvd. Area: south of Northwest Blvd., north of Maxwell Ave., east of Pettit Dr., and west of Monroe St.

Wednesday, Nov. 17— Indian Trail Rd. Area: south of Johansen Rd., north of Francis Ave., west of Cedar St., and east of Nine Mile Rd.

Clark Park Area: south of Wellesley Ave., north of Garland Ave., west of Division St., and east of Wall St.

Northwest Blvd. Area: south of Northwest Blvd., north of Maxwell Ave., east of Pettit Dr., and west of Monroe St.

Thursday, Nov. 18— Northwest Terrace Area: south of the north City limits, north of Wellesley Ave., west of Assembly Rd./Nine Mile Rd., and east of the river.

Hillyard Area: south of Francis Ave., north of Wellesley Ave., west of Greene St., and east of Perry St.

Northwest Blvd. Area: south of Northwest Blvd., north of Maxwell Ave., east of Pettit Dr., and west of Monroe St.

Annual Roadkill Count Is Going Up

I drove a stretch of road out near Stateline last night that was probably about a mile long. I drove it again first thing this morning and saw some pretty gruesome sights that hadn't been there the night before. The roadkill toll in that one mile alone included a turkey, two deer, a raccoon and one REALLY big bull elk that must have left some serious damage to someone's car. I wanted to take a picture of the elk just for the impact but thought that might be too ghoulish.

My point is that its getting dark earlier and its that time of year when the animals come back down to feed, so maybe you want to slow it down in rural areas, especially after dark, and be observant out there.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oberstar Replacement Could Be Boon For WA Transportation

One casualty of the Republican wins in last week's elections was U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Minnesota Democrat was defeated in a narrow vote, which could have major implications in the transportation industry. Here's an article from the Dallas News about the turnover.

The presumption is that the ranking Republican on the Transportation committee, John Mica of Florida, will replace Oberstar as chairman. Mica not only helped secure funding for the North Spokane Corridor in past years, but is also reportedly a friend of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, which could be advantageous to our transportation situation.

Dept. of Licensing Cracking Down On Licenses For Illegal Immigrants

Washington is one of only three states in the country where illegal immigrants can still get drivers licenses. The State Department of Licensing is tightening up requirements starting today though, requiring license seekers to prove they actually live here.

Here is how they're doing that, from the Olympian.

Three Spokane Bridges To Be Replaced

Three Spokane County bridges will be replaced using money from a federal bridge program. Here's which bridges will be fixed, from the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column.

Article Says Economy/Other Factors Are Moving More People Toward Urban Areas

This article from MSN backs up a lot of things we've heard here at SRTC during the course of our Transportation Vision Project. The article talks about how demographic shifts and changing values will increase demand for pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use communities in both urban and suburban settings. The particular 'shifts' the author is talking about include the growth of two-person households, the need for the aging baby boomer population to have better access to services, and the current economy allowing less people to buy homes, meaning more people will live in apartments than in the past.

There are always going to be people who want to live on their acreage away from others, but do you see this movement toward more urban settings or do you think it's just a fad?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Transit Agencies Across State Suffering

Spokane Transit isn't the only transit system facing hardships during this recession. According to this artcile from 'Crosscut' every transit agency in the state if dealing with deep financial challenges. Check out what the other transit companies are doing to make ends meet.

37th Avenue Open To Traffic Again

37th Ave. from Grand Blvd. to Perry St. reopened to traffic today although drivers may have occasional delays while crews finish final detail work.

The project rehabilitated 37th Ave. from Grand Blvd. to Perry St. including installing new curbs and sidewalks on the south side of the street.

The $647,000 project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and Spokane Transit Authority.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I90 Blasting Wraps Up For Season

Tonight is the last night I90 will be shut down for blasting at Snoqualmie Pass. Construction crews are packing it in for the season. So while you won't have to worry about getting slowed down by construction, you will have to worry about bad weather.

A half-mile detour with narrow shoulders will remain in place through the winter at the Gold Creek bridges near Hyak. Contractor crews will continue to work along the project to prep the area for winter.

Valley Reverses SARP

Things are up in the air in Spokane Valley lately. The Spokane Valley City Council last week voted to recommend to the Planning Commission to eliminte the Sprague Appleway Revitalization Plan.

The SARP was a roadmap for the next 30 years in Spokane Valley. It included plans to switch a one-mile section of the one-way Sprague Avenue to a two-way street, create a downtown in the University City area, and construct a city hall. So will things go back to how they were six years ago, before the SARP? The Inlander looks into the situation here.

Inlander Staff Plays Transportation Planning Game

The folks at the Inlander played the Transportation Planning Game, and had an interesting take on it. They played it from the view that they're a Senator trying to keep their constituency happy and the balance required to do so.

Here's the article from this week's article.

Writer Says Safety Spending Is Silly

Silly Street Spending
Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor

The city is loading up on us. Recently, we’ve heard the rumblings of adding bike lanes downtown that will take car lanes away. Right! Let’s suppress what 99.9 percent of what our citizens want in order to appease the 0.1 percent who ride bicycles through downtown.

Now, the city, coerced by the special interests represented by the program manager of the incredibly rich University District, is hoping to use $2 million in increased property taxes just for planning and design of a complete makeover called “The Division Gateways Corridor.”

How many millions will the taxpayers be forced to put out for construction of these “necessities” – new street trees, artwork, and bike racks! But, wait, it’s for pedestrian safety!

If pedestrians use the crosswalks legally, why would they need ultra-safety at the cost of millions? Meanwhile, we don’t have enough in the budget to pay for proper police protection.

Michael Wiman
Deer Park

Apparently Mr. Wiman doesn't try to cross downtown streets everyday like I do and has either some very close near-misses with cars or gets yelled at on a daily basis for slowing traffic down. The sign says 'walk' so I walk. What's illegal about that?

Lincoln & Monroe Closed at Second Tomorrow

If you drive Monroe or Lincoln Streets, you're going to need an altnerate plan tomorrow. Both streets will be closed at their intersections with Second Avenue so that paving can take place.

The weather has been beautiful but it can't last forever. Crews are racing to beat the winter weather to finish local construction projects. Here's a construction update from the Spokesman-Review.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Give Your Opinion On The U District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge

Those who attended the Central City Mobility Open House last week probably learned about the University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge. Those who didn't need to catch up, and I have the perfect place to do so. There's now a 'University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge Study' blog, and it's got all the info you need to know, including why the bridge is needed, a map of where it would be located, and different options for bridge design/style. Who would have thought there were so many styles of bridges?? Log on here and check them all out.

Now here's something important; after you look all the bridge info over, please take the survey that's on the front page of the blog at the bottom of the first paragraph. The survey asks for your preference of the two bridge options, what you like about each option, what issues or concerns you have with each option, and your preference for the bridge style. It's important that you take this survey so that the folks at the City know your thoughts on this project.

Wanted: More Players For Transportation Planning Game

I've bought lots of stuff off Craigslist. In fact, last night I bought a ramp from a nice lady to help my old dog get in and out of the car. And I've certainly sold stuff on Craigslist (I'm still worried that old tent trailer is going to find it's way back into my yard when the buyer figures out what a piece of junk it is). But I've never really advertised anything there, such as a meeting or service.

One of our sub-consultants on the Transportation Vision Project suggested we post an ad for the Transportation Planning game there so here it is.

If you just want to play the game though, not learn more about it, go here and click 'Play the game.' So far we've had over 1200 people at least go to the home page and check it out. Not nearly so many people actually finished playing it but we've got a great start. So help us get some good numbers and play it right now. Who cares if it's on work time? Have your boss play with you. Legal disclaimer: that was merely a suggestion, not a mandate. SRTC can not be sued for bad advice given on this blog.

Talk About Ironic...

What are the chances? You're dressed as a breathalyzer machine and you get pulled over for drunk driving. That's what happened to this Nebraska man over the weekend. It's not all that newsworthy but I thought it was funny considering the irony involved.

SRTC November Board Meeting Rescheduled

Get out your sharpie because it's time to update your calendar. SRTC has rescheduled the November Board Meeting to Thursday, Nov. 18 at 1 pm because the original meeting date fell on the Veterans Day holiday (not that we take the day off but several of the agencies we work with do).

Please change your schedule accordingly.

The Magic Behind The (Transportation) Modeling

While it sometimes seems like a circus around here, there is actually a method to the madness of how we go about transportation planning.

Transportation Modeler Anna and myself will be hosting our annual 'Planning Assumptions' meeting next Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 4-6 p.m. This meeting is aimed at educating the public on the tools and methodologies used in planning, including computer programs that analyze transportation data and the data required to run them.

So if you've ever wanted a peak behind the scenes, come to this meeting. It's in the SRTC conference room at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Editorial Asks To 'Do Second Avenue Right'

In this editorial in today's Spokesman-Review, Bicycle Advisory Board member Bradley Bleck challenges City of Spokane leaders to 'Do Second Avenue Right' by striping bike lanes and possibly trying something new such as 'bike boxes.'

I work with both planners and engineers on a daily basis. Not to perpetuate stereotypes, but the old joke is that engineers see everything in black and white and the planners see all rainbows and butterflies and unicorns when it comes to the future of transportation infrastructure. Several planners I've talked to, all who support bike and pedestrian facilities in general, say they (at least somewhat) agree with City engineers on this one and don't support putting bike lanes on Second Avenue. Instead, they would like to see them on a less busy downtown street so they would be utilized by more people, including those who may not be comfortable riding near so much traffic.

What's your thoughts on this topic?

Proposed Job Cuts Would Take From Street Department

I hear complaints about the condition of Spokane streets pretty regularly in this business. Well bad news, because things may get worse within the City of Spokane, due to budget cuts announced yesterday.

Mayor Mary Verner presented her 2011 budget to the City Council yesterday, which included 120 job cuts. Fourteen of those come from the street department. Those cuts would effect repairs to streets after utility cuts are made and how fast the streets will be plowed after snowstorms. Here is a summary of all the proposed cuts, from the Spokesman-Review.

The City has a program where it offers incentives to employees who come up with ways to save money on City programs and activities. Suppose you were a City employee. What ideas would you submit? And don't worry, I don't qualify so I'm not going to steal your ideas and submit them as my own.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Transportation Roundup For Week Of Nov. 1

It's Monday. You know what that means. The Spokesman runs their 'Getting There' column on Mondays. In this week's column; the U District Bridge, I90 and US 395 work, Airway Heights maintenance and Stevens Pass live traffic cameras.

Airport Body Scanner Q & A

Because Spokane International Airport recently got body scanners, I thought you might be interested in some frequently asked questions, and answers, regarding the scanners. For instance, are there health risks associated with the scanners? How does the technology work? Is there an alternative security procedure if I don't want to go through the scanner? Are the images of you in the scanner saved?

For the answer to all those questions and more, here's an article from the Seattle Times.

Two City Projects In The Books

I haven't been up there yet this morning, but Wellesley Avenue from Assembly to Driscoll is supposed to be open again. The street was closed for a construction project to rehabilitate it and replace water mains. The $1 million project was funded by the Federal Government and City of Spokane.

Northwest Boulevard from Alberta to Maple Streets is also open again. A construction project there rehabilitated Northwest Blvd. and installed a concrete intersection at Northwest Blvd. and Cochran St. Drivers may encounter intermittent lane closures while crews stripe the street and finish final detail work.

The $1.9 million project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and Spokane Transit Authority.

New Transportation Bill Moving Forward

Here's good news for SRTC, if it's accurate. USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood last week said he's received a green light from the White House to move on the country’s next 6-year transportation bill. That's good news because the last bill expired months ago, was extended a couple times, and expires again on Dec. 31, 2010. Many projects have been at a standstill, waiting for word on a new bill, as funding is pretty much tied up until then. It's hard to plan for the future when you don't have parameters to work with.

USDOT officials now expect to see a full reauthorization proposal from USDOT and the White House next February in the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2012. In the meantime, a 1-2 year reauthorization of the current transportation bill will probably be passed.

Here's more information from the 'Mobilizing the Region' blog.

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.