Monday, February 28, 2011

Browne's Addition Cars Towed

The City today towed 11 cars in Browne’s Addition today so the streets could be plowed. Let that be a warning to you for tomorrow if you live on east/west streets there. Plowing on them begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday. If your car does get towed for some reason though, call 625-4100 to free it.

Call-In Show To Discuss Transit Planning For the Future

This month's edition of the Cable 5 TV show “Council Connection,” will be hosted by Spokane City Council Member Amber Waldref and is titled “Spokane Transit: Planning for the Future.”

Council Member Waldref will be joined by Susan Meyer, CEO of Spokane Transit Authority, and Karl Otterstrom, STA’s Director of Planning, to discuss long-term strategic plans for development of a High Performance Transit Network in the Spokane area. They will also discuss the on-going Spokane Central City Line alternatives analysis, which compares several modes such as streetcar and bus rapid transit in an effort to identify ways to enhance connectivity between major activity centers within the central city area.

Calls from viewers will be accepted during the program so call 625-6337 if you have any questions you've been wanting answered.

Snoqualmie Pass Closed

Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 is closed in both directions from near North Bend to Ellensburg due to a snow slide blocking the westbound lanes.

Crews are working to clear the roadway but because the closure is weather-related they can't estimate when the road will be open again.

Campaign To Widen 904

Here's an item I lifted from today's Getting There column in the Spokesman-Review: Cheney city officials are making a proposed widening of state Highway 904 through Cheney the city’s top legislative priority.

Heavy traffic frequently slows the two-lane highway between Cheney and Four Lakes. A Coalition for 904 has been formed to advocate for the widening, which could also include additional lanes from Cheney to Tyler. A center turn lane is also being advocated.

For those who drive this roadway regularly, and those who don't, what are your thoughts on widening it?

Browne's Addition Plowing Reminder

A reminder that City crews will be plowing the streets of Browne’s Addition today, and tomorrow starting at 9 a.m.

Cars must be moved from the north-south streets in Browne’s Addition today, and from the east-west streets tomorrow. The streets are so narrow in Browne’s Addition the trucks cannot get through with parked vehicles lining the streets.

Vehicles parked in those areas when the trucks come in will be subject to towing. If your vehicle is towed, call 625-4100.

Friday, February 25, 2011

City Tackling Downtown Berms

The City of Spokane just sent out these pictures of machinery removing the berms downtown. These industrial snowblowers suck up the snow and blow it into a dump truck, which hauls it away to dump at one of the City's yards.

Article Says 'Fix It First, Expand It Second, Reward It Third'

When out talking to members of the public, I'm hearing more and more often lately that we need to focus more on fixing and maintaining the transportation infrastructure that we have, rather than building new. This article from Economix suggests “Fix It First, Expand It Second, Reward It Third” and mentions another sentiment I've been hearing more often lately, that we should be doing more public-private partnerships. What do you think; fix it and they will come, as the article title says?

Nice Ride

The folks in Liberty Lake who drive their golf carts and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles around the community have nothing on this bad boy. I friend sent me this picture of this 'Cadillac' golf cart she saw in San Diego last weekend. Note the two baby seats in back. Hmmm...

Latest on City Plowing & Browne's Addition Plowing

Starting at around noon today, the City of Spokane is planning to use an industrial snow blower to remove some of the center berms downtown that were created by plows overnight. The snow will then be hauled away in dump trucks. Work begins on Spokane Falls Boulevard and could slow traffic but at least one travel lane will be maintained wherever the snow blower is being used.

Meanwhile, the City has essentially completed plowing the primary and secondary arterials and is concentrating on residential areas, where 17 grader-truck plow teams are deployed. On the North Side, crews are working in routes 8, 9, and 13, with route 7 scheduled next, and on the South Hill, they are working in routes 2 and 3 with 1 scheduled next. Click here for the residential plow route map and to follow the progress of plows.

Plowing in Browne’s Addition has been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 28 and March 1. North-south streets will be plowed on Monday and east-west streets on Tuesday. Vehicles must be moved from those north-south streets on Monday and the east-west streets on Tuesday or they will be towed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Highway 27 Closed

Highway 27 between Fairfield and Tekoa is closed in both directions due to blowing snow and poor visibility.

The National Weather Service is reporting that near-whiteout conditions on the Palouse have the potential to be life threatening if you were to get stuck or go off the road.

Visibility on the Rathdrum Prairie in Idaho is being reported as very low and Idaho State Police are urging drivers to stay away from the area.

Bill Would Allow Citizens To Vote On Red Light Camera Use

The Washington state House and Senate are moving to impose new standards on cities' use of traffic cameras, but an effort to give voters a chance to veto cameras hasn't come to fruition. The House Transportation Committee earlier this week rejected voter approval for cameras, as suggested by House Bill 1279.

The Olympian has the story on the movement to let citizens decide whether or not to use red light cameras. I suspect I know the answer to this, but would you like to have a say in whether red light cameras are used in our area or do you think our elected officials should continue to make that decision?

Good Help Is Hard To Find These Days

Hey look! After months of complaining, management FINALLY got me an assistant! With the economy being so bad though we weren't able to pay as much as I would have liked, and had to hire accordingly. This little lady doesn't have a college degree but she draws a mean scary monster. And I have to ask her mom if I need her to work more than an hour or two at a time (and if I could post this picture).

Actually, her mother found out at the last minute that daycare was closed and didn't have any other options so brought her into the office. I watched her while mom was in a meeting, which completely blew my child-disliking cover.

195 Open Again, City Declares Stage 2 Snow Emergency, County Working 24/7

Okay, getting a slow start this morning for a variety of reasons, but here's a roundup of the closures I've received:

- US 195 was closed in both directions due to drifting snow this morning but has been reopened. One of the folks that works in the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) took the old highway to get in this morning and said that the winds and drifting caused the snow to reach up to the hood of his car!

- The City of Spokane declared 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. The City is calling in contract graders from the private sector to help with the effort.

City crews currently are working in arterials and moving into residential hill routes, those numbered 20 and above on the City’s residential plow route map.

Within six hours, parked vehicles need to be moved off the arterial streets and STA fixed bus routes. And within 12 hours, cars should be parked on the even side of the street in residential areas. Crews will leave berms at the end of driveways in the residential areas. Check the progress of City plows here.

Crews will plow downtown tonight so people will need to watch for center berms in the morning and move their cars. Once the full-city plow is complete, the berms will be removed.

- County road crews are also working 24/7 in 12-hour shifts. Currently, 71 pieces of snow removal equipment are working on emergency routes and primary arterials throughout the county.

After crews finishing plowing/sanding emergency routes and primary arterials, they will move to secondary roads, hilly residential areas, followed by flat residential neighborhoods. For more information click here.

- Speaking of the SRTMC (above), you probably want to check it before trying to drive anywhere today. Not only can you check the live traffic cameras to see what's happening on your usual route, but the map and alerts on the front page tells you exactly where the trouble spots and closed roads are.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Slick Out There, Slow Down

A multiple-car collision on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 at Division is blocking traffic, and a long backup is forming behind the accident scene. The right lane of traffic is moving slowly.

Another multiple-vehicle accident was reported about the same time at Pines Road and Montgomery Avenue. And to top it all off, I hit a car coming down the hill from Sacred Heart when a woman pulled out directly in front of me and I couldn't stop in time. It only left a tiny scratch on my 13-year-old car with almost 200,000 miles on it but dented in the rear quarter panel on her very new Honda. The good news is that it wasn't my fault. Fortunately.

The snow downtown (at least outside my office) has now quit, but the City just sent out an update on their snow removal/deicing efforts. Here are the highlights:

City of Spokane Street crews are working to de-ice and sand City streets as needed. Street officials have called in additional crews for the night shift on Wednesday and are prepared to switch to plowing once the snow begins to accumulate.

De-icing efforts today have focused on hills, bridges, and problem areas. Weather forecasts indicate that several inches of snow are likely within the City through Thursday, and cold temperatures will keep that snow from melting immediately.

A number of collisions already have been reported because of slick conditions. High wind gusts also may cause blowing and drifting snow and poor visibility for drivers.

Blow By Blow Account Of Monday's Listening Session In Vancouver

A delegation of members from Congress were in Vancouver, WA on Monday for a 'listening session' to hear what’s on the minds of Washington residents as Congress begins drafting the next big multi-year transportation spending bill.

SRTC's Transportation Manager, Glenn Miles, was at that meeting with other representatives from Spokane, including from Spokane Transit, the Good Roads Association, Spokane Valley City Councilmember and SRTC Board Chair Gary Schimmels and County Commissioner Todd Mielke.

Glenn said there was so much response to the meeting that not everyone could fit in the room designated for it. There were also protesters there, both for and against the Columbia Crossing bridge.

Glenn went into a lot of detail of what was said at the meeting, but The Columbian newspaper posted live updates throughout the hearing, saving me from having to transcribe Glenn's debrief.

You can follow what happened here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Temporary Government Shutdown Could Be Coming

Odds are increasing that there could be a short-term shut down of federal agencies coming, including the Department of Transportation. This is due to a stalemate between Republicans and Democrats on resolving differences in Fiscal Year 2011 spending.

While talks drag out, a Mar. 4 deadline looms to pass a spending bill. It's looking more and more likely that a compromise won't be reached in that time.

The Federal Transportation Issues blog has the details. I checked with local branches of national agencies and all say that, at this point, this shutdown isn't expected to effect them, except through not being able to do business with federal agencies during the shutdown.

Writer Says Bicyclists, Drivers & Pedestrians Not Mutually Exclusive

Spokesman-Review Letters to the Editor
Motorists must share tab revenue

Mr. David Bray (Letters, Feb. 21) comes out periodically in his negative ways to complain the new tab tax should only be used for street maintenance and not to allocate a few pennies of it toward sidewalks and bike lanes.

Mr. Bray should realize that pedestrians, cyclists and automobile drivers are not mutually exclusive. Some of us do three and, yes, we pay fuel tax, shop at the same stores as those that only drive and purchase shoes as well as fuel, tires, etc.

How narrow-minded and selfish to think that those of us that choose to live downtown and walk on sidewalks are somehow depriving drivers of cars in some way. Mr. Bray and those that believe there should be no funds allocated toward anything other than curb-to-curb paving are living in the dark ages.

Time to wake up and stop segmenting those of us that in actuality use the streets and sidewalks to not only drive but ride our bicycles and walk. After all, some of us actually pay taxes, too.

Steve Berde

Kudos to Mr. Berde for pointing out that everyone is a pedestrian at some time and that those who ride their bikes are also using the street.

Airport Closer To Having New Director

The Spokane International Airport is one vote away from having a new director.

Spokane City Council members last night voted 6-0 to name Larry Krauter the airport's new executive director. Krauter is currently serving as interim director of the Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Penn.

The Spokane airport's board of directors also voted to recommend Krauter for the position. Spokane County Commission will have the last say on the matter. They're expected to vote on it today.

If Krauter is approved, he will replace interim director Ryland Skip Davis, who has been in charge at the airport since Neal Sealock stepped down last summer.

Monday, February 21, 2011

TAC Meeting Next Monday

The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting is next Monday, Feb. 28. The TAC is responsible for advising SRTC Board members on recommendations regarding plans, programs, and activities conducted by SRTC.

The packet for next week's meeting is posted here. If anything jumps out at you, feel free to attend. TAC meetings are open to the public. They're held in our conference room at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

Succesful Paving Program Being Retired

A paving program that was a big success in Spokane Valley is being retired.
The Spokane Valley Herald has the story on the STEP program and why it's being discontinued.

Education Campaign To Accompany Construction Season

Today's Getting There column in the Spokesman-Review mentions an education campaign that will be rolled out in advance of this year's construction season, due to a large amount of projects that will cause congestion in our area.

The article mentions that the Washington State Department of Transportation, the City of Spokane, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, Greater Spokane Incorporated and the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau will all take part in putting together a website and maps to help drivers avoid construction areas. What the article DOESN'T mention is that SRTC is a major player in this as well. In fact, we're doing the actual leg work. By that I mean myself and my GIS-guru Kevin and graphic design princess Jenny are actually MAKING the website and designing, laying out, editting and printing the map. So it's SRTC money going into the effort. A little love here for the grunts behind the glamour please. Kevin and Jenny put a lot of time and effort into these projects so hopefully someone will notice the fabulous colors and precise locations of projects on the map.

Oh yeah, there's a couple other things in today's article too but I got fired up before I got there and didn't finish reading it so you'll have to look for yourself. And be looking for that website and map. I'll let you know when and where they'll be available.

Group Pushes Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance Bill

A bill currently in the Washington State Legislature would allow insurance companies to offer Pay-As-You Drive Insurance. So what is Pay-As-You Drive Insurance? It's the idea that motorists should be able to pay for their insurance based upon the amount of miles they drive.

The Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) is pushing for this bill, as they believe it will encourage alternative forms of transportation besides driving alone. That's because if your car is sitting at home while you walk, bike and ride the bus to get around, the chances of you getting in a car accident are minuscule. Plus you would pay a lot less for insurance if you're not driving your car.

In addition, TCC says mileage based insurance reduces congestion, air, water and climate pollution, promotes environmental stewardship, and makes auto insurance more equitable. According to them, the average driver that switches to mileage based insurance is expected to reduce their annual miles driven, crashes and insurance costs by at least 10%.

Here is more information on the bill. And if you would like to show support for it, TCC asks you to click here and fill in your zip code so they can send a letter on your behalf to your local representative.

Upriver Drive Lane Closure

If you use Upriver Drive, you may want to leave a little early tomorrow to get where you're going, or find an alternate route. City of Spokane Urban Forestry staff will be removing four dead trees starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow east and west of the Boulder Beach parking lot.

One lane of traffic will be closed for most of the day and the area will have flaggers regulating traffic flow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Western WA Bus Driver Arrested

I say over and over again how 'boring' (meaning how normal the people on it are) my bus route is. But I think that's a good thing. Things were a little more interesting on a Whatcom County route this week. A bus driver was fired because he promoted prostitution to a rider!

When a passenger told the driver that he's broke and having a hard time making ends meet, the driver told the man "He had a friend that could perform a sexual act on the passenger … and pay him $50 for it." has the story.

Anything out of the ordinary happen to you on the bus lately?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Market Street Lane Reduction

Next Tuesday and Wednesday evening, from about 7:30 p.m. until as late as 5:00 a.m. the following morning, traffic on Market Street in the vicinity of Hawthorne Road will be reduced to one lane with flaggers directing traffic.

Drivers on Market may experience short delays while crews remove the temporary bridge that currently crosses Market Street in that area.

Holiday Closures

Here's your early warning that there will be some closures on Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday. SRTC and City of Spokane staff will be working (its not because we don't respect the big guy, just that we negotiated the day as a 'floating holiday'). City of Spokane Valley and Spokane County offices will be closed. If you have businesses with other jurisdictions (Cheney, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, etc.) call first as their status for the day wasn't posted on their websites.

Downtown Spokane parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Monday, but the City Council meeting will be held as usual.

Public Comment Period On Proposed Projects

SRTC recently issued a Call for Projects for Job Access & Reverse Commute (JARC) and for New Freedom Program projects seeking federal funding for the years 2011. The following projects were submitted by area jurisdictions:

Kalispel Tribe- KALTRAN route to North Spokane
Spokane Transit Authority- Preserving Service to Medical Lake

New Freedom Program
Aging & Long Term Care of Eastern WA- Coordinated Transp. Across Boundaries City of Spokane Valley- Sidewalk & Transit Stop Accessibility

A public comment period is open on the proposed projects, so if you would like to show support, or submit any other comment regarding one or more of the projects, click here for more info.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Public Hearing On STA Service Changes

Do you support, or not support, a plan to cut local bus service? Tonight is your last chance to voice your opinion to the Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors.

A public hearing on the proposal starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Spokane City Council Chambers at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. The board is expected to vote on the plan on March 16.

To bring yourself up to speed before tonight's meeting, check out the proposed service changes here.

Fuel Efficient 737s

Our office is in the Spokane Intermodal Center (the Greyhound and Amtrak station) so we see a little of everything come through. On Monday, the boss man took this picture of 737s being shipped through the area via train. It was quite a sight, an entire train filled with plane bodies.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Proposed Drunk Driving Legislation

Under proposals being considered by the state Legislature, convicted drunk drivers could face stiffer penalties, including tripling of mandatory jail time on a first conviction and requiring offenders to buy a special license plate.

Under the proposed legislation, first-time offenders would spend three days in jail, rather than the current one day, if they had less than double the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content allowed by state law when arrested. They'd spend a week behind bars, rather than two days, if they had two or more times the legal limit.

Opponents say the proposal could end up costing cities and counties money. Even though the bill calls for offenders to pay for their incarceration, only 30 percent do that now.

Special license plates could also be required for those with drunk convictions. They would have a 'Z' on them to denote the offense. The plates would cost $100 more than what current plates go for.

What do you think folks? Of course I am against drunk driving, but I'm not sure about the license plate proposal. There are a lot of families with only one vehicle. What if a mother has to drive the kids to school in the car with the Z license plate on it because her husband was convicted of drunk driving? And what if you buy a car with a Z plate on it? Will you have to pay to change it out? Also, will the Z draw attention to you by law enforcement? Will they be more likely to pull someone with a Z on their license plate over? I just see a host of issues arising from this suggestion.

Driver In Fatal Accident Accused of Updating Facebook While Driving

Here's an extreme version of why you shouldn't text, or do anything with your phone, while driving: the family of a pedestrian fatally struck by a vehicle is suing the driver, claiming she was updating her Facebook page on a cell phone when the crash happened.

CBS Chicago has the story.

Council Passes Vehicle Tab Tax

Spokane City Councilmembers last night voted to approve a Transportation Benefit District (TBD), which means residents of the City will be paying an extra $20 per year to register their vehicles. The vote followed months of debate and contention regarding the tax.

Meanwhile, efforts to create a regional TBD are expected to get back underway soon, although Spokane Council President Joe Shogan says there's not the political will to make it happen. The Spokesman-Review has the story.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Writer Claims Road Rage Getting Worse

Do you feel under fire behind the wheel? Do you think there's less courtesy and more road rage these days? This editorial from the Seattle Times says driving is getting more combatant, drivers are getting ruder and the first commandment of Seattle driving is that if you make a mistake, you give the other driver the finger.

The writer also claims that Seattle drivers are the worst; refusing to signal, passing on the right, and hesitating to let other drivers merge. After reading this piece, Spokane drivers' tendency to run yellow and red lights doesn't look so egregious. So read the piece and let me know, are things getting worse out there? Is this just a Seattle phenomenon or is it happening everywhere?

1 Million Electric Vehicles By 2015?

President Obama recently reaffirmed his desire to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, but is that really realistic? A lot of auto makers are saying no, but there is work on the government's end to encourage the production and sale of electric cars. Here's what's happening behind the scenes from the Federal Transportation Issues blog.

Do you think you will be one of the million to be driving an electric vehicle by 2015?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Who Needs Public Transportation?

Here's your reward for making it to Friday. This 1968 educational film starring actor Paul Lynde and LA newscaster Ralph Story was produced and distributed to libraries, schools and community groups by the Southern California Rapid Transit District (1964-1993) in advance of a 1968 ballot initiative. It's pure cheese, but still applicable.

Public Private Partnerships- The Way Of The Future?

As many of you know, KMPO contracts with Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC) on the Washington side of the state line for day-to-day operational and administrative needs. We had a meeting of the SRTC Board yesterday, which was preceded by a 'brown bag lunch session' presentation on transportation funding; where it comes from, how its determined what projects get money, etc. A topic that came up in the discussion was the role that Public Private Partnerships (PPP) play in improving transportation facilities.

It seems to be one of the topic du jours lately, as I logged onto the Federal Transportation Issues blog this morning and found this article on the same subject.

The piece makes an argument for making greater use of PPPs as fuel tax revenues drop and gives a refresher course on PPPs.

Driving Alone Aids Terrorism?

In the past, I've talked until blue in the face encouraging people to find a different way to get to work besides driving alone. But it never occured to me to accuse someone of being a Nazi to draw attention to the cause. I stole this picture off the Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle Blog. Go there to find out why some experts are using the same tactics today- in the name of national security.

Police Officer Was Speeding When Pedestrian Struck

Investigators have determined that a Spokane police officer was speeding when he struck and killed a pedestrian on North Monroe Street Jan. 30. Detectives are again asking for anyone who may have witnessed the colission to come forward. Here's the latest from the Spokesman-Review.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Little Known Fact

I'm trying to beat Barb Chamberlain to getting this item posted to her blog that we both just heard in our Board meeting: Karl Otterstrom of Spokane Transit says that statistics show that 1/3 of drivers on downtown Seattle streets in the evening are actually driving around looking for parking spots!

Did I win? I just realized she was probably tweeting it, not blogging it. Yep, I just checked Barb's Twitter page and she did indeed tweet it. Yet another reason I need to get in gear and get SRTC on Twitter.

Some Items From The City Of Spokane

- An open house for the Post St. from Maxwell to Cleveland avenues project has been set for Tuesday, Feb. 15, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at Corbin Senior Center, Upper North Classroom, 827 W. Sinto Ave. Citizens and businesses are encouraged to attend to learn about traffic impacts and construction dates.

- Work to prepare vacant warehouses at Division and Riverside for demolition is set to begin Monday, Feb. 14 to make room for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

This project will build a new street through the University District, improving traffic flow for motorists and increasing safety in the heart of the Riverpoint Campus. The street will extend east from the intersection of Division St. and Riverside Ave., curving north near the eastern campus border then connecting to Spokane Falls Blvd. just before the Trent Ave. Bridge.

Construction is slated to begin later in the spring and take about four months to complete. Once completed, the new boulevard will have bike lanes, streets, and an elevated median. The $3.76 million project is funded by federal and local funds.

Feeling Blue? Try Washington Gray

As if I don't get enough of gray all winter, I'm planning to paint my house this spring and have picked out a color called 'Manatee Gray.' I'm rethinking my choice now though, since I learned from the Washington State Department of Transportation of a color called 'Washington Gray.' Little did I know, but concrete comes in all colors, so when a bridge or other infrastructure item is complete, it's usually painted Washington Grey, but sometimes Mt. St. Helens Gray or Cascade Green, if the department is feeling really crazy.

So why paint a giant structure? The WSDOT blog has the answer.

TTC Meeting Next Week

SRTC's monthly Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting is next Wednesday, Feb. 16. Here's the agenda. As always, anyone is welcome and encouraged to attend and there's a 'public comment period' if you have anything you'd like to say. Transportation-related, of course.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

House Republicans Propose Big Rail Cuts

Yesterday Vice President Biden announced the Administration's plan to request $8 billion for high speed passenger rail in next year's budget. Today, House Republicans proposed essentially zeroing out this year's funding.

If budget cuts released today are adopted, 2011 proposed funding of $1B for high speed passenger rail and $224 million for Amtrak operations would be eliminated.
The Federal Transportation Issues blog has the entire list of proposed cuts.

Report Says ARRA $ Went Furthest In States Investing In Public Transportation

Remember Stimulus money? Yeah, it seems like that was so long ago now. Looking back though, how did the whole American Reinvestment and Recovery Act(ARRA) thing work out? That's what Smart Growth America wanted to find out, and they just released a new report entitled, “Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation.”

Smart Growth America is an organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring smart growth practices to communities nationwide. They work with communities to fight sprawl and do everything from providing sidewalks to ensuring homes are built near public transit and farms remain part of communities.

Smart Growth America's report discusses how states spent their flexible transportation funds from the 2009 stimulus, and specifically looks at which states were more successful (or less successful) in creating jobs out of those funds.

So who were the big winners? Apparently states that invested more heavily in public transportation than new construction of roads and bridges came out on top. In our area, Idaho was ranked #35 for percentage of total road spending allocated to system preservation and new capacity and Washington was #38 on the list. For Percent of funding spent on public transportation and non-motorized projects, Idaho came in #17 and Washington 33.

There's a lot of other interesting info in this report you will want to check out, so click here and read it. Then give me your feedback if you have any.

Citizen Voices Concern For Pedestrians Walking Under Browne Street Bridge

Have you walked under the Browne Street bridge between Sprague and Pacific downtown lately? I did a couple times last summer, but then I don't have a lot of common sense sometimes.

On his blog, Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder writes about how a young man at this week's Council meeting voiced concerns about what goes on under the bridge. He cited violence, gang activity and litter as a couple examples. From personal experience, I've also seen evidence of drug activity, sexual activity, and a lot of urinating on the walls. Councilman Snyder goes so far as to call the area 'quite possibly one of the worst pedestrian experiences in the entire City' and asks why this decline has been allowed to happen in this area.

Read his blog post then let me know if you have any ideas for cleaning this area up. Or just general insights into the situation.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valley Fighting Winter Road Damage

Winter isn't even over, but the City of Spokane Valley isn't wasting any time addressing road damage caused by winter weather. Crews are already filling cracks and patching potholes, oftentimes at night, in an effort to get ahead of the damage. The Spokane Valley News Herald tells us what they're doing to keep the streets smooth.

Spokane Bike Month Will Be Here Soon

It's only February, so imagine my surprise at getting my first 'Bike to Work Spokane' email today. It used to be 'Bike to Work Week,' but organizers say Spokane's biking community and events are just too big to fit into one week, so they're designating all of May as 'Spokane Bike Month.'

So what's on the agenda for Bike Month this year? It's still early, but already we know there will be a commute challenge, the local women's bicycling group Belles and Baskets will host a couple rides, the Lilac City Century Ride will take place, a kickoff breakfast, there will be a 'ride of silence' (don't have details on this but am assuming it's for those folks we've lost recently in bicycling accidents), and an information fair, plus lots more. I'll keep you updated as things develop, but wanted to remind you that riding season is right around the corner.

State Of The City Address Friday

Care to speculate on the state of the City of Spokane? You don't have to, because Spokane Mayor Mary Verner will deliver her 2011 State of the City address this Friday, Feb. 11, during a 7:30 a.m. meeting of Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) in the ballroom at the Spokane Convention Center.

Not going to the meeting? You can watch it live on CityCable 5 at 8 a.m.

A news release from the City says the Mayor will talk about the City’s successes from 2010 and look ahead to the City’s priorities and plans for the rest of 2011.

Here's To Rail Transit

Vice President Biden today announced a six year, $53 billion plan to improve and expand intercity passenger rail service. The administration is calling for a $8 billion investment in FY 2012.

As outlined in the president's State of the Union address, Biden says President Obama’s goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

So here's my tribute to rail transit; the classic Simpson's song and dance number 'Monorail.' How come my public meetings never end with a big song and dance number? I need to work on that.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Senate Bill 5131

There's another bill to keep an eye on working its way through the state system. Senator Mary Margaret Haugen(D-Camano Island)recently proposed Senate Bill 5131, which would require a local government's capital facilities plan, included in its comprehensive plan adopted under the growth management act, must include public streets, roads, and transit, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities. That would mean those facilities would be eligible to be credited against the imposition of local impact fees.

The bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on February 3. We'll keep an eye on it and let you know what happens with it, but here's more info.

Anyone have any feedback on this one?

Show Your Love For Complete Streets

Do you heart complete streets? Make a Valentine for someone special, while showing support for a complete streets movement in Spokane.

Kitty Klitzke of Futurewise is hosting a get together this Friday to make Valentines while getting the word out about complete streets. Its free. And there's wine. But that's not the real draw; it's complete streets. Here's a link to the info.

Obama Wants To Put People To Work- On Transportation Infrastructure

President Obama spoke to U.S Chamber members today. In addition to other topics, he touched on transportation specifically, and how he wants to put people to work fixing transportation infrastructure.

The WSDOT's Federal Transportation Issues blog has the story.

Writer Wants Street Fee

Spokesman-Review Letters To The Editor
Street fee needed

There are Third World countries with better streets than Spokane.

You might ask why are we having all the problems with potholes. They are not happening on streets that have been repaved in the last seven years, but on streets that haven’t been repaved in 25 years. These streets have patches on their patches and should have been repaved.

The city used to do asphalt overlays where they ground down the edges and added 1 1/2 inches of new asphalt to the existing roadway. Now they wait until the street fails and has to be torn out to subgrade and completely replaced, which is twice as expensive.

We need a street utility fee like the ones used by sewer, water and refuse so we can pay for the streets we so desperately need. The method they are now using isn’t working, and they are expecting the streets to last for 25 years.

We can afford to pay the city spokesperson $87,000 a year but we can’t afford new streets. What’s wrong with this picture? Contact your city council person and demand new streets in a timely manner.

Rick Johnson

Okay, I support the part in this letter about needing a street fee but I'm not down with the part about the City spokesperson making $87,000. If he's referring to Marlene Feist, I'm not sure she makes that much, but she should with all the junk she has to put up with. She earns her money every day. She was my boss when I was at the City and I told myself everyday I would get a nice waitressing job if my job ever became even a fraction of how hectic Marlene's is. Besides, that's comparing apples to oranges. $87,000 doesn't pay for much in the world of transportation unfortunately.

SRTC Board Meeting This Thursday

The SRTC Board meeting is this Thursday, Feb. 10. I just posted the agenda here if you want to check it out. There's a bonus this month also. The meeting will be preceded by a brown bag lunch session on 'Transportation Funding 101.' If you've ever had questions about where money comes from to fund local transportation projects, this is your chance to get them answered. Everyone is welcome to attend. We can't afford to feed you though, so bring your own lunch.

Also- this will be the first meeting in our BRAND NEW CONFERENCE ROOM!!!! So if a Board meeting and brown bag session aren't enough to get you down here, maybe that will be.

Spokane Joins 'Let's Move!' Campaign

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner is trying to get Spokane moving. During a press conference at Bemiss Elementary School today, Verner and regional health officials highlighted programs aimed at preventing childhood obesity and publicized new initiatives to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

Mayor Verner announced that the City of Spokane will join the national Let’s Move! campaign, which was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama on February 9, 2010. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. Let’s Move! is working to combat the childhood obesity epidemic through a comprehensive approach with schools, families and communities to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.

Here's more info from the Let's Move! website.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mission Ave. Project Open House

The City of Spokane is hosting an open house next week for the Mission Avenue project. It involves rehabilitating Mission from Napa to Greene streets. Also, a 30-inch water main will be installed.

The open house is Thursday, Feb. 10, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at Stevens Elementary School, 1717 E. Sinto Ave. Citizens and businesses are encouraged to attend to learn about traffic impacts and construction dates.

Watch What You're Driving Over Sullivan Road Bridge

A recent inspection by the City of Spokane Valley Public Works Department shows that the southbound Sullivan Road Bridge (the westernmost bridge of the two) across the Spokane River has begun to show signs of deterioration. The deterioration is typical in bridges of this age (60 years old) and includes cracking in the girders and deterioration of the driving surface.

The bridge is not currently at risk of failing, but loads exceeding the maximum legal weight limit will cause it to deteriorate faster. To avoid the need to impose weight restrictions, which would negatively impact those businesses in the industrial areas near the bridge, signs will be posted to remind drivers of legal weight limits:

- Single truck: 25 tons
- Semi-truck and trailer: 36 tons
- Single truck and trailer- 40 tons

Half of the estimated $19.7 million cost to replace the bridge has been received from the Federal Highways Administration. It's not clear when the bridge will be reconstructed though as the rest of the money needed is not currently available.

$137B Needed For Transportation Gap

The findings from a congressional commission have just been released, and they say the gap between current revenues available for surface transportation and capital needs each year is $137 billion. Wow, that's a lot of money! So how do we bridge that gap? The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have come up with some options you can read about in this entry on the Washington State Department of Transportation's 'Federal Transportation Issues' blog.

New Study Claims Red Light Cameras Save Lives

Its hot topic time. Anytime I blog about Red Light Cameras, I get a big response. The folks who comment on this blog are overwhelmingly against them. And that's your right, because, as with all fairly new technology, their effectiveness hasn't been completely proven one way or another.

A new study out of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just been released on red light cameras, with some interesting conclusions. It says they saved 159 lives between 2004-08 in 14 of the biggest US cities.

Here's a release from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that breaks down the report data. Or you can watch the Associated Press video summary below. A warning though, you're going to have to sit through a preview for the new Nicholas Cage movie 'Drive Angry.' Shot in 3D of course. Looks like a classic.

Looking For Your Safety Campaign Ideas

As I mentioned earlier on this blog, the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) is starting a campaign, funded by a grant received through SRTC, to promote educate the public on increasing safety through sharing the road among bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians. The campaign is called Spokane Moves Safely and SRHD held their first stakeholder meeting last night to gather input on the most effective way to conduct this campaign.

The people attending this meeting included an insurance agent, an attorney who bicycle commutes, a representative from Goood Roads Spokane, an employee from the City of Spokane, several members of the Bicycle Advisory Board, an interested citizen who is new to Spokane, two women who teach bicycle commuting classes, and several more.

Some of the questions asked of the attendees included:

- What is the cause (in your opinion) of collissions between pedestrians/bicyclists and vehicles?

- What kind of education campaigns have been done locally and nationally in the past and what about them have appealed or not appealed to you?

- Who should this latest campaign target?

- What educational message could prevent collisions?

- What kind of enforcement could add impact to the educational message or help prevent collisions?

- What is the best/most effective way to reach members of the public with this message?

You'll be hearing more about this campaign in the coming months, but if you have any ideas/messages to share now, go ahead and post them and I'll pass them on to the folks at the Health District.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Letter Writer Not Happy With STA Spending

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
STA needs to be curbed

I see that the Spokane Transit Authority is proposing to cut eight routes and 18 drivers. I’m sure we will get lots of letters from bus riders who decry such a move, and I feel sorry for them, but the STA is a perfect example of an agency that spent our tax money like it was a never-ending gravy train. Remember when they built the grand Taj Mahal of a bus station downtown? They were not disciplined enough with our tax money to build a sensible building, but had to import lavish stonework and tropical plants.

There was a park and ride on Montgomery Avenue off of Pines Road that functioned perfectly, but they had to scrap that and instead build one a few blocks away that has nice lawns, etc. that must be maintained.

The list goes on and on including those extra long buses that seem to never have more than a couple of riders. The whole STA should be scrapped and start over with smaller vehicles that could get more people shuttled around at a cost we taxpayers can afford.

Howard Danielson
Spokane Valley

Do you agree? Disagree? Why? The 'long bus' on my route refered to by Mr. Danielson is always full, but its only used during peak times. Also, during our 'Transportation Vision Project' public discussions, it was suggested a couple times to use smaller buses on some routes that have lower rider numbers.

Brown Bag Session Next Week

Want to come have lunch with us, while learning something new about transportation? WEll, here's your chance: SRTC will host a brown bag lunch session on 'Transportation Funding 101' before the February 10 Board meeting. We'll talk about how SRTC and its programs are funded, how federal and local money plays into what we do, how our partner jurisdictions receive grants and money for projects through us, and what each 'pot' of money can be spent on.

The session starts at 12 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10 with the regularly-scheduled Board meeting immediately following. And the best part possibly? It will be in our brand new, as yet unused, conference room at SRTC, 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

The bad part though: while everyone is welcome to attend, you've got to provide your own lunch. Sorry folks but we can't afford to feed you all. Hope to see you next Thursday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Council Puts Off Parking Fine Increase Discussion

The Spokane City Council last night agreed to put off discussing the option of increasing parking tickets at expired meters from $15 to $25. Some Council members said they are hesitant to even discuss the issue when there is currently a parking study underway.

The Spokesman-Review has the details.

Some Items From The WSDOT Eastern Region Newsletter

- Work continues on the new Port of Entry station on I90 near State Line. Crews right now are working on the interior of the main weigh station building and the truck inspection building. Most of the major work is expected to be complete sometime this spring or summer and the Washington State Patrol can begin installing their systems. When the facility becomes operational and truck traffic begins to use the new facility, the old weigh station at the Stateline Interchange will be removed.

- Travelers have a new option to check on the status of the Keller Ferry in Eastern Washington. The route information has been added to the automated telephone system that serves the Puget Sound routes of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Ferry Division. Although the Keller Ferry is operated by the WSDOT Eastern Region, rather than the Ferry Division, it is a water route and seems logical to include it on the ferry information system.

Just call 5-1-1, select the 'ferries' option, then select “Keller Ferry” as the option when prompted on the menu.

- A number of WSDOT transportation projects, along with the contractors and engineering crews, were recently singled out for awards by the Department and the Associated General Contractors.

Three Eastern Region projects were selected as winners of the 2010 “Partnership for Excellence in Contract Administration” awards. In the “Less Than $3 million” category, Frank Gurney, Inc. and the engineering team from Bob Hilmes’ project office were recognized for their work on the 07-09 Roadside Safety Improvements project.

In the “$3 million to $10 million” category, Inland Asphalt and the engineering team from Chad Simonson’s office picked up the award for the US 395/Spokane City Limits to Stevens County line job, and for projects over $10 million, Acme Concrete Paving and Bob Hilmes’ team received the honors for their work on the North Spokane Corridor/Francis to Farwell concrete paving project.

These teams were judged by a panel using criteria that included customer focused administration, innovative problem solving, overcoming extraordinary challenges, effective contract administration, schedule, and safety.

Another award came from the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of the Inland Northwest. The AGC gave one of their 2010 Build Northwest Awards for project excellence to Cameron Reilly, LLC for their work on the WSDOT/US 2-Division Street/Wellesley Avenue concrete intersection. These awards recognize excellence in construction throughout the Inland Northwest.

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.