Friday, April 29, 2011

A Good Way To Kill Some Time On Friday

It's Friday, there's not a lot going on in transportation news, and it's snowing outside. To cheer us (and by 'us' I mean 'me' of course) up, let's go to my happy place: Mexico. That's right, I'm fortunate enough to have friends with a place in Puerto Vallarta, so I just got back from a cheap vacation there. So that it doesn't sound like I'm talking about myself though, and because this is a transportation blog, let's talk about transportation in Mexico.

To start with, we made a point to get everywhere by bus if possible. See those people huddled against the rock wall in the picture? That was the bus stop across from our hotel. Standing on Highway 2 waiting for the bus isn't looking so bad anymore is it?

Once you got on the bus (assuming you lived to do so), there was lots to see. Many bus drivers decorate their buses with curtains, decals, fuzzy dice, etc. and they also provide you with music at high decibels; usually traditional Mexican mariachi music or techno. I've never been a techno fan but there's one beat I just can't get out of my head now.

Some buses even had live music. These were two musicians who jumped on at our stop and played and sang all the way downtown. When they got to the transfer point, they jumped off our bus and got on another, presumably to sing and make more money.

Many of the bus stops weren't even marked, you just had to know where they were. This one was marked with this shrine though. I'm not sure if that's to show that someone died there (probably because it was right next to a high speed two-lane highway) or if it's just a convenient place to worship while you wait for the bus.

While the buses were very popular there, many people created their own mass transit.

This one is hard to see because it was taken from a moving vehicle, but that's a man and woman on a motorcyle with a baby between them. I also saw pregnant women in the back of pickup trucks and people lying on top of loads to keep them from blowing out. Apparently bungee cords aren't popular in Mexico.

The pedestrian 'walk' signs there were really cool. They were animated and actually showed someone walking, although it looked more like he was doing the electric slide.

Okay, I'm done talking about myself- I mean transportation in Mexico- now. Don't we all feel better now?

Street Striping Starts Soon

You wouldn't think it today considering it's been snowing, but it's about time for road striping to begin. The Washington State Department of Transportation included a notice in their newsletter today that they will begin re-striping the centerlines and fog lines on the 1,570 miles of state highway as soon as the weather dries out.

About 85,000 gallons of reflective, yellow and white, water-based paint is used. To help drivers see the stripes at night, the paint is mixed with tiny glass beads. The beads raise the paint slightly above the level of the roadway and vehicle headlights reflect off them.

Because of our seasonal weather, highway paint striping is an annual process. The combination of winter traction sand, plowing, and studded tires wears down the paint and beads making the stripes harder to see or even removing the stripe altogether. On some highways, permanent, plastic inlaid stripe is installed on the road and sometimes a recessed reflective pavement marker. These often help, but they also lose reflectivity and need to be maintained.

Unlike highways in Puget Sound, we don’t use the raised pavement markers on this side of the state. Those work very well but are removed quickly by snowplow blades in the winter.

Bike "Helpers" Will Be Rewarded This Year

The annual Bike to Work Week Commute Challenge is being conducted a little differently this year. In past years, participants who rode the most miles were rewarded for their efforts. It stands to reason though that the seasoned riders would win that contest, as they're already riding long distances on a regular basis while new riders aren't comfortable riding at that level yet.

And it's those new riders that need the encouragement to become regular riders. So this year, the emphasis will be rewarding those who help others get started.

When you register for Bike to Work Week this year, you will be asked to identify your “helper,” which could be an individual, a team, or even an employer who might have provided support to get you started riding.

May (National Bike Month) starts on Sunday, so if you haven't already registered, hurry up and do it! Here's the link to Spokane Bikes, formerly Bike to Work Spokane.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bloomsday Road Closures

Guess what Sunday is? Yep, Bloomsday. And whether you're running the race or just going to be out and about running errands, there will be race-related road closures you need to know about. So where do you get the details on them? Must you even ask? of course. Go there now. I said now! I mean please.

Looking For Input On Transportation Vision Project

If you haven't weighed in on the Transportation Vision Project yet, you're running out of time to do so. The Vision Project report is posted online here and you have until May 9 to submit any comments you may have about it. There are also directions posted there as to how to comment.

The Vision Project was a year-long study to determine how best to develop the regional transportation system in the long-term and includes recommendations and an implementation plan. Check it out and let us know what you think of the finished product.

WSDOT Asking For Your Freeway Fix Ideas

A reminder that the Washington State Department of Transportation is hosting an open house this evening to get your ideas on how to improve Interstate 90 in East Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake.

The open house is 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Hope Lutheran Church, 17909 E. Broadway Ave. Potential freeway designs will be presented that could help commuters and freight haulers get where they need to go more conveniently. Some of the suggested possible changes include added lanes and more efficient on- and off-ramp locations between Barker and Harvard roads.

There is no formal presentation planned, so drop by anytime during the meeting. If you can't make it, no problem, you have until May 15 to submit comments. Here's a link to the WSDOT web page on this. It's got more information and contact info.

Buy A Home- Get A Free Car

Everyone knows the real estate market, along with the economy, is in the dumps right now. But one Chicago builder has found a way to move his inventory of homes; by giving a free car with purchase. The New York Times has the story.

While the home buyers in that community are loving that deal, others are calling it a way to promote urban sprawl and criticizing the builder for creating 'life-draining commutes.' Here's an article from Grist that references the 'empty, angry hours spent on the road and in traffic.'

So what's your take on this? If you were looking for a home, would you buy one far from home because a car was being thrown in?

Why Do YOU Walk?

It seems to be survey week here at SRTC. This latest survey is to help the group 'America Walk' learn more about who walks, and why we walk. America Walks is a national resource which fosters walkable communities by engaging, educating, and connecting walking advocates.

The survey only takes 5 minutes to complete and results are anonymous. This national survey will help walking advocates understand what motivates walkers and what keeps others from walking more. When the data is analyzed, America Walks will use the results to help promote walking in America.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Division & Wellesley Work

On Thursday, April 28th, the traffic signal at the Division Street and Wellesley Avenue intersection will be upgraded. That means the system will be shut down from approximately 9 am until 3 pm. Traffic through the intersection will be controlled by flaggers during this time. Because of the flagger control, the left turn and right turn lanes will be closed off on Division and Wellesley, and Division will be reduced down to only two lanes in each direction. The flaggers will allow each leg to proceed separately. You can expect delays during this time.

County Considers Bike Helmet Ordinance

The City of Spokane already has a bicycle helmet ordinance, but now County commissioners are considering one. And users of skateboards, roller skates and scooters also might be required to wear them.

Here's more information, from the Spokesman-Review.

Child Car Seat Emphasis Patrol

If you hadn't noticed the big electronic signs around the area announcing it, there's a child car seat emphasis patrol on. The Spokane County Target Zero Task Force received a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to promote the correct use of child car seats with an educational and enforcement program to be conducted throughout Spokane County.

Parents frequently place children in seat belts too soon. Seat belts are designed for adults and do not properly protect children until they are 4’9” tall. Under Washington law, people who transport children are required to adhere to the following basic rules to protect children in the event of a crash:

▪ Child ages: 0 to at least 12 months and 20 pounds --use a rear-facing infant seat. Keep your child rear-facing as long as your child car seat allows.
▪ Age: 13 months to age four -- use a car seat with a five-point harness.
▪ Age: four to 4’9” tall -- use a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt.
▪ Age: up to age 13 -- children should ride in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Every day in the US, on average five children are killed and 548 injured in vehicle crashes (according to 2007 figures). Child car seats reduce the risk of injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. If you need information about correctly installing a child car seat visit

FHWA Approves Green Bike Lanes

Here's something cool; the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued an Interim Approval for the use of green coloring in bike lanes, much like the one in the picture from San Francisco.

Citing multiple experiments that demonstrated positive operational effects for both bicycle riders and other road users, with no notable negative effects, this approval allows states to apply for approval to use coloring in bike lanes. This Interim Approval does not make the use of green-colored pavement mandatory however.

Here's more info on this decision from FHWA, including the research that went into making it.

What do you think? Is this an improvement for bicyclists in your eyes?

Don't Park On Bloomsday Route Reminder

Do you like your car? Do you want to keep it? Then don't park it on the Bloomsday course this week. There were four vehicles towed yesterday that were parked on the race route so the City wants to remind you to keep your vehicle off the street from 9 a.m. to around 4 p.m.

If your car is towed, the number to call to claim it is 625-4100.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TAC Members Needed

Okay all you armchair transportation planners, this is your chance to have a say in how transportation works around here. SRTC needs new members for its Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC).

TAC members are responsible for advising the SRTC Board on recommendations regarding plans, programs, and activities conducted by SRTC. The purpose of the TAC is to promote transparency and provide an opportunity for the public to be involved in SRTC's programs.

The TAC is composed of 13 members that meet monthly. You don't have to have any technical transportation experience, we just ask that you can read and understand the fundamentals of land use and transportation planning as established in the Revised Code of Washington. That makes it sound like a drag, but it's not. It's a fun group for the most part and we have some lively meetings. The biggest reason you're going to want to joint though is because I am the staff liaison to the TAC. Don't all line up at once now.

For more information on the TAC or to apply to be a member, click here. The deadline to submit applications is Wednesday, May 18.

Bike And Pedestrian Master Plan Headed Out For Public Input

May is National Bike month, and it's also the month when Spokane Valley is working on wrapping up their portion of work on a Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan. City staff has been working on the Plan all winter and is now ready to take it out to the public for input. The Spokane Valley News Herald has the story.

More Red Light Cameras Approved; Council President Quotes Dr. Evil

Everyone's favorite subject is back; that's right, Spokane's City Council is talking red light cameras again and voted unanimously last night to add them to four more intersections.

Cameras will enforce the southbound approach at Thor Street and Second Avenue, southbound approach at Browne Street and Third Avenue, southbound approach at Maple Street and Second Avenue and the westbound approach at Second Avenue and Walnut Street.

And that's where the meeting got weird. Apparently a citizen who attends City Council meetings regularly spoke, saying the city's main reason for more of the red light cameras is to increase its revenue.

Council President Joe Shogan apparently took offense at this, called the meeting to a halt, then returned with Spokane Police statistics showing a decline of accidents at some intersections in the second year of the Photo Red program.

And the best part from our elected leader: he told the citizen, “You’re frickin’ wrong,” after presenting the police statistics.

Your Input Is Needed

Don't ever tell me you never get to express your opinion when it comes to government projects. Here are three areas just this week where you are being asked for input:

- The Spokane Regional Health District has been awarded a grant to help reduce the number of bicycle, pedestrian and motorist collisions in Spokane County. They're using this survey to test and determine effectiveness of some possible slogans and visuals, so please take it and let them know what would affect you. For your participation, you will be entered into a drawing for one of four $20 Hastings Book/Music Store gift cards. Can't talk now- taking survey.

- The City of Spokane wants to know what design you prefer for the proposed University District Pedestrian/Bike Bridge. You can learn more about the proposed bridge and view three-dimensional images of the two proposed bridge options, then provide your feedback trhough a project survey. Survey responses are due by May 2.

- The Pedestrian Plan Update Citizen Advisory Committee wants your views on what should be included in an update to the City of Spokane's Pedestrian Plan.

The Pedestrian Plan Update seeks to promote pedestrian safety and access to help ensure that Spokane is a safe, convenient, and attractive place to walk. It will establish a pedestrian network emphasizing safe routes to school and connections to transit. The goals of the Pedestrian Plan Update process are: Develop an implementable plan Improve pedestrian safety Enhance mobility Prioritize a system plan Results in projects, programs, enforcement Involve stakeholders, including underserved Develop guiding policy Integrate with other efforts (Complete Streets, Transportation Planning)

In the meantime, the advisory committee working on the plan is gathering public input on it through this questionaire. The Pedestrian Plan Update is expected to be complete by the end of 2011.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I90 Spokane Valley- Liberty Lake Open House

How would you improve Interstate 90 in East Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake? That's what the Washington State Department of Transportation wants to know. They're asking for suggestions and providing an opportunity to learn about possible design options for the freeway between Barker Road and Harvard Road at an open house.

The open house is 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at Hope Lutheran Church, 17909 E. Broadway Ave. to present potential designs for this section of I-90. The options aim to help commuters and freight haulers get where they need to go more conveniently with added lanes and more efficient on- and off-ramp locations.

There is no formal presentation planned, so you can drop by anytime during the meeting. Engineering staff will be on hand to answer questions and take comments.

City Upgrades Electric Vehicle Charging Station

The City of Spokane has upgraded the electric vehicle charging station at City Hall to allow for charging electric vehicles more quickly. The station has been upgraded to a “Stage II” unit that provides 208 volts and can charge an electric vehicle in half the time of the earlier 110-volt equipment.

The station is located in the parking lot just north of City Hall. It currently has one outlet, but later this year will be upgraded to two outlets allowing two vehicles to charge at the same time. The station is a partnership between the City and Avista. Avista provided the new equipment, and the City installed it.

In part, the City wanted to upgrade the station to accommodate two new vehicles that will be added to the City’s motor pool. To save money and resources, the City dramatically reduced its motor pool in 2010 and committed to an emphasis on alternative-fuel vehicles for the remaining motor pool vehicles. The City is expecting delivery of a Nissan Leaf this summer and a Chevrolet Volt by early 2012.

The station is also open for public use. Has anyone out there used it yet?

Freeway Lane Closures

Starting today, crews will set up long-term lane restrictions for scheduled bridge work on I-90 in Spokane, including:

• Eastbound I-90 will be reduced to one through lane at the Abbott Road Bridge at the top of the Sunset Hill.

• East and westbound I-90 will be reduced to two lanes at the Latah Creek Bridges near downtown Spokane.

• Drivers entering eastbound I-90 from US 195 need to use extra caution due to probable eastbound congestion.

• The eastbound US 2 to westbound I-90 ramp will be closed with a signed detour.

So here's what to expect: slow traffic, congestion, and delays. Allow for extra travel time in this five-mile section, especially when planning for appointments or airline travel and check out for updates.

Some Items From The City Of Spokane

- We're less than a week out from Bloomsday, and as in years past, City crews will be cleaning up the race course this week. That means vehicles may be towed along the route. Today, no parking signs will be placed on Riverside Avenue from Maple to Hemlock streets and on Broadway Avenue from Maple to Nettleton streets. No parking will be allowed Tuesday through Thursday, April 26 to 28.

Additionally, no parking is allowed along the race course on Sunday, May 1. Residents should move their vehicles to avoid towing. If your vehicle is towed, call 625-4100 to get it back.

- If you haven't been through there yet, the Freya St. and 11th Ave. intersection reopened on Friday. Additionally, Hartson Ave. from Havana to Myrtle streets is now open to traffic. The intersection and street have been closed as part of a project to replace a water transmission main.

- Ninth Ave. from Monroe to Madison streets will be closed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Wednesday, April 27. Crews will be doing sewer work.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reathorization update...

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk and media focus around the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution to fund government through Sept. 30th this year, and the fiscal year 2012 budget that will get us through Sept. 30th 2012.

But, that's not all Congress has been up to. They have been holding a series of hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The latest Senate hearing was held last week in the Environment and Public Works Committee to discuss "Issues for Surface Transportation Authorization.”

Likewise the Transportation and Infrastructure committee in the House has traveled all over the country to hold a series of town hall meetings and hearings to discuss the reauthorization of the transportation bill.

Both of those committees have vowed to move the reauthorization process forward, in hopes of getting it through Congress this year. Outside of those transportation committees, however, many politicians have said that a reauthorization bill is not likely to advance until after the presidential election -- when talking about raising taxes is much easier. The federal Highway Trust Fund is nearly tapped out. New revenue is needed to advance our nation's transportation infrastructure priorities.

As a result of the hearings, many interesting ideas have risen to the surface and some of them are getting legislative traction as the effort moves forward. For instance, if you listen to the Senate hearing above, you will hear several state transportation secretaries testify that first and foremost, our nation needs to focus on the immediate and dire need for maintenance and preservation of the national highway infrastructure system. But just like any of the issues that are brought to the committees, the conversation always seems to settle on how we are going to pay for the priorities we want addressed.

As we have heard over the years from our federal elected officials, it looks like the time may have come for the federal government to incentivize the larger metro areas to start raising local revenues to off set the federal spending. Many large metros are doing so already and they are suggesting that they be rewarded with larger allocations of federal funding. Check out what the Maricopa Association of Governments is proposing here.

As far as raising more federal revenue this year, most believe it is highly unlikely especially considering current general budget politics. But Sen. Max Baucus, who chaired last week's Senate hearing on the issue, said he thinks there is merit to reauthorizing transportation in a two-year bill. That way Congress can utilize the remaining money left in the highway trust fund to get us past the presidential elections, and hopefully out of this economic recession. That concept is gaining some traction and it appears politically doable by the end of this fiscal year. While it is not the long-term solution most planners would like to see, it does provide some certainty in these politically trying times...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Unintended consequences?

Colorado has already leagalized the use of marijuana for medical purpposes, but now the legislature is grappling with how to regulate "stoned driving." The Denver Post reports the legislature took up the issue yesterday thinking the 5 nanograms of THC, the active drug in marijuana, in the bloodstream was enough to constitute stoned driving, but there is a twist with this drug. Apparently, THC is still detectable in the bloodstream even after the user "sobers up."

The legislature killed the bill on a 6-3 vote, but according to the Denver Post story, this issue is going to take some time to resolve.

Will gas prices impact tourism this year?

I was just reading this story in the Las Vegas Journal about how the rising cost of gas could eventually hurt tourism this year.

I found that really interesting and I wondered if tourism related businesses around here are worried about it. I don't think they have to worry too much about Canadian tourism because Canadians having been paying higher prices for gas for years, and their dollar is finally on par with our dollar. Still, I bet domestic tourism slows down this summer.

This story got me thinking about my own summer travel costs last year, and I have to say that I may have to consider less travel this summer. Steve Everett (our IT guy), and I are part of a competitive BBQ team and last year we competed all over the Pacific Northwest. We won a number of ribbons & trophies, and a little bit of money, but this year we are going to have scale things back -- unless, of course, we start winning big money out of the gate.

How about you, have you given any thought to your summer travel plans?

Viaduct debate turns nasty...

So, I am browsing my usual transportation blogs this morning to get up to speed on the latest regional transportation news, and stumbled across a particularly nasty blog post about discussion on Facebook between supporters and opponents of the tunnel project that is being considered for the replacement of the Seattle Viaduct.

When I saw a link comparing the project to a "slut," I assumed they were making a silly reference to the South Lake Union Trolley (jokingly referred to as the SLUT), so I started to read it and I was amazed at the juvenile exchange that actually compared the project to a "slutty mom." Yeah, I know, go figure...

Anyway, here is link to the blog post,and while the language is cleaned up, be forewarned that the subject matter could be disturbing for some.

BTW, isn't it about time for Seattle to settle on a design for that project and just get it done?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gas prices are going to get worse

Man, my bus was packed today. It usually runs about two-thirds full in the mornings -- unless we get a foot snow. But it was standing room only this morning. I am sure it's the gas prices forcing some of these people to seek alternatives.

It really is starting to hurt. I borrowed my neighbor's truck this past weekend to haul away half the junk that accumulated in my garage over the winter. Before returning it, I usually fill the tank with gas and run it through the car wash as a thank you. I think last time I did that, I spent about $40... this time it cost me $75, and he already had a 1/4 tank of gas in it!

On the bright side, while I was cleaning the garage, I came across a little 80cc motor I bought last year. It looks just like the one in the picture above. I resisted putting on my commuter bike last year, but now I am considering doing it for the summer and riding to work. That baby supposedly gets 70 miles per gallon.

Just a heads up, you might want to take a look at this story. It says that gas prices have topped $4 a gallon in six states and shows no sign of slowing up. I paid $3.58 a gallon at Costco in Coeur d'alene this weekend. According to the story above, that is only 4 cents higher than the cheapest gas in the nation... I guess we should be grateful ours isn't over $4 yet, but somehow I don't feel all that grateful.

No government didn't shut down...

Staci, has been on vacation, so the blogging falls to me this week. So you can expect a little less cleverness, and a lot less material (unless of of course Congress decides to set aside partisan politics and fix our budget problems this week), but I'll do my best to keep you up to speed. In the meantime, here is something you probably haven't seen yet. It's the newest edition of the SRTC Newsletter.

Good to see some attention paid to distracted driving

An anonymous poster linked this video to a comment on our Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization's blog. As a commuter, I am glad to see organizations like this offering scholarships to raise the awareness of distracted driving. I realize it's not just cell phones distracting drivers, but 9 times out 10 when I pass an inattentive driver, they are texting or talking on a cell phone. What's worse is that it not just kids doing this anymore. I'm starting to see senior citizens doing it too.

I read a news story a couple of months ago about research that is underway to prevent distracted drivers. I think it was the USDOT that was considering new regulations that require cell phone jamming devices in cars that are moving over 15 mph. You would essentially have to pull off the road to take a call or check a text message. Personally, I'd be fine with that. Nevertheless, until our society decides to resolve this issue, try and be careful out there...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stepping Out For A Little While

I'm taking some time off to rest up and get rid of this pesky facial tic so you will be in the hands of Jeff Selle for a while when it comes to blogging. He's got other duties as well so let's just say he probably won't be as 'prolific' of a blogger as I am. Talk amongst yourselves while I pack my stuff.

SRTC April Newsletter Available

SRTC's April newsletter is available now. Here's where you can check it out.

Electric Vehicle Owners Say They're Being Singled Out

Drivers of electric vehicles in Washington say they're being unfairly singled out by a proposed $100 annual state fee for their cars.

The Kitsap Sun has the story.

Gas Prices Not Dropping Anytime Soon

Dust off that bike or invest in a bus pass, gas prices will jump 40% for the summer driving season compared to 2010, according to federal projections released Tuesday.

Retail prices for a gallon of regular-grade gasoline will average $3.86 from April through September, up from $2.76 for the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistics arm of the Energy Department.

The average U.S. household's vehicle fueling costs will be about $825 greater this year than last year, hitting $3,360 in 2011, according to EIA.

The catalyst for the increase, according to EIA, will be continuing strength in worldwide liquid fuels consumption.

Studded Tire Deadline Extended Again

The deadline to remove your studded tires has been extended again. You now have through April 25 to remove them.

The Washington State Department of Transportation made the extention because forecasts call for possible winter driving conditions across the mountain passes and in the state’s higher elevations.

Studded tires are legal in Washington Nov. 1-March 31, unless WSDOT grants an extension. Today’s announcement marks the third extension this year, and WSDOT officials don’t anticipate any further extensions beyond April 25.

Safe Routes To School Bill

The Group 'Complete Streets Spokane' wants you to know that if having safe routes to school is one of the reasons you support the Complete Streets movement, you have an opportunity to support it at the federal level by contacting our state senators and asking them to co-sponsor a new bill introduced by Senator Harkin. The bill proposes sustaining the Safe Routes to School program at the current funding level of $183 million and would make some policy tweaks to strengthen the program.

If you like the sound of this, you can go here to take action.

Free Car Care Fair Saturday

Does your ride need a little attention? Get ready for the summer heat and take care of your car by attending a FREE Car Care Fair this Saturday, April 16th from 9am - 3pm at Spokane Community College's Automotive Building on Greene and Mission.

Taking an active role in maintaining your vehicle is the best way to avoid cost repairs down the road. Automotive specialists will be on hand to provide a FREE vehicle inspection of your lights, vital fluids, belts, hoses, and air filters. Keep your vehicle running cleaner and longer!

You can also enjoy refreshments provided by Costco and enter to win prizes!

The Car Care Fair is sponsored by Wix Filters, Motion Auto, Costco, Spokane Clean Air and our good friends at Spokane County's Commute Trip Reduction Office.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Arthur Street To Close Between Second & Third

Arthur Street northbound between Third and Second avenues will be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, so crews can complete base-paving work. Drivers will be detoured to Perry Street and can expect delays.

The closure is part of a City of Spokane 10-Year Street Bond project to rehabilitate Second Avenue from Arthur to Howard streets. The project includes replacing an 8-inch sewer main from Sheridan to Hatch streets and a water main from Howard to Stevens streets. Traffic signals will be upgraded, too.

Second Ave. from Arthur to Division streets remains reduced to one lane. Additionally, the signalized intersections are controlled by stop signs, and all other intersections are closed to traffic. The project is expected to be completed by the end of July.

Moose Lands On Car

Holy cow, make that moose, here's a crazy story! A 600-pound bull moose walked onto U.S. 95 Monday morning and collapsed on the trunk of a woman's car after being shot by a tranquilizer dart!

Can you imagine being behind the wheel at a stoplight when that happened? The Coeur d'Alene Press has the story. Ever have something unusual land on your car? Someone threw a bottle out of a hotel room window one time and guess who's car it hit several stories below? Yep, mine. Not nearly as cool as a moose.

Alternative Transportation Fair At SCC Today

For any of you folks out there who are college students at Spokane Community College, swing by the Lair today to chat with me. I'll be taking part in SCC's 'Alternative Transportation Fair' so come grab a construction map or bike map or learn how you can be rewarded for finding ways to get to school or work besides driving alone. I believe it's between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. but that may actually be 2 p.m. I just show up when they tell me and leave when they tell me so it's all good.

App Prevents Texting & Driving

I posted yesterday about it being Distracted Driving Awareness Week and a blogger sent me a tip on an app you can download that prevents you from texting or web browsing while driving.

StopTxting® is a speed regulated texting application that uses the built-in GPS sensor in smartphones to prevent users from texting, emailing or web browsing when traveling over 10 mph.

Yes, there's an override button so you COULD cheat if you're that determined, but it's billed as a way for passengers in a vehicle to continue to use their phones.

Here's a link to StopTxting if you want to check it out. Maybe for your teenage drivers?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pedestrians Getting Attention This Week

Things could be improving for Spokane pedestrians. There's a lot going on this week that could change the landscape for walkers, including the Vulnerable Users bill going before the State Senate concurrence, the Traffic School Safety Education bill awaiting the Governor's signature and measures being taken for Traffic Awareness and Pedestrian Safety Week. The Down to Earth blog has a roundup of what's going on in the pedestrian world.

Gas Prices Compared To Other Liquids

I couldn't actually find it in the magazine, but the person who sent me the info below claimed to have gotten it from Auto Week Magazine.

With gas prices at a national average of $3.73, up 12 cents in the past week, there's been a lot of complaining about how much people are paying to fill their tanks.

In the scehme of things though, is gasoline really that expensive? Not when you compare it to the prices for other liquids. Here are some comparisons that Auto Week supposedly did. What if you were to fill your tank with...

- Diet Snapple- 16 oz for $1.29 = $10.32 per gallon

- Lipton Ice Tea 16 oz for $1.19 = $9.52 per gallon

- Gatorade 20 oz for $1.59 = $10.17 per gallon

- Ocean Spray 16 oz for $1.25 = $10.00 per gallon

- Quart of Milk 16 oz for $1.59 = $6.32 per gallon

- Evian (water) 9 oz for $1.49 = $21.19 per gallon

- STP Brake Fluid 12 oz for $3.15 = $33.60 per gallon

- Vicks Nyquil 6 oz for $8.35 = $178.13 per gallon

- Pepto Bismol 4 oz for $3.85 = $123.20 per gallon

- Whiteout 7 oz for $1.39 = $254.17 per gallon

- Scope 1.5 oz for $0.99 = $84.84 per gallon

Not looking so bad now is it? Now I just have to figure out where I can get a car that runs on Pepto Bismol...

Transportation Roundup For Week of April 11

Work on Spokane International Airport's main runway starts today. So how does that affect you when travelling? The Spokesman's 'Getting There' column has the answer, and other transportation news happening this week.

SRTC Board Meeting This Thursday

Guess what this week is? Yep, it's SRTC Board meeting week again. The weeks just fly by don't they. Here's a look at the meeting agenda. Please note that the meeting will be preceded by a brown bag session to discuss Spokane Transit's Central City Transit Alternatives Analysis. As always, everyone is welcome at both the brown bag and the Board meeting so feel free to attend. You have to bring your own lunch though, we're not providing those.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Second Ave. Business Meeting Scheduled

Do you own or manage a business along Second Avenue in downtown Spokane or know someone who does? If so, there's a special meeting coming up for merchants along Second to develop a marketing plan to keep customers coming into those businesses during construction.

All the information for it is on the website.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Transportation Vision Project Reports Available For Review & Comment

After over a year, we're almost there! That's right, I think we're in the FINAL stages of SRTC's Transportation Vision Project.

Draft reports from the project are now available for review and public comment. The Spokane Unified Regional Transportation Vision and Implementation Strategy and the Vision Process Summary Report can be found on the Vision Project website.

The Transportation Vision Project is an effort to develop a long-term vision and implementation plan for transportation across the Spokane region. It looked at existing plans and policies regarding transportation; considered community values and the needs of the community.

The project team gathered a LOT of public input in shaping the 'vision' including using an online game and a telephone survey to get input. Over a thousand residents and stakeholders participated during the visioning process through different input opportunities.

The Vision and Implementation Strategy includes a series of recommendations and suggestions to meet the identified vision. The Vision Process Summary Report provides detail about the public outreach efforts.

A public comment period for the two documents runs from today to May 9, 2011.

Brown Bag Session Next Thursday

The April 14, 2011 SRTC Board meeting will be preceded by a brown bag lunch session on Spokane Transit Authority’s Central City Transit Alternatives Analysis. The brown bag session starts at 12 p.m. with the regularly-scheduled Board meeting immediately following, at SRTC, 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, Spokane WA.

On occasion, SRTC Board meetings will be preceded by brown bag sessions. All sessions are for informational purposes only. The public is welcome to attend all sessions but you have to bring your own lunch.

Bike To Work Week Is Now Spokane Bikes!

Bike to Work Spokane has a new name- and website. Spokane Bikes and the new site is

They also have a new mission: promoting all of May as Spokane Bike Month.
What does this mean for Bike to Work Week? All the traditions continue: the kickoff breakfast, the Energizer Stations around the County hosted by area businesses, and the ever-popular Wrap-Up Party at the Steam Plant Grill.

The old registration system is going away though, so if you plan to participate, you need to take a few minutes to create a new profile at the new website.

Share the link with your friends who ride for fun but don’t bike commute. The hope this year is to get everyone who rides a bike to sign up. So get going folks; May is right around the corner.

Construction Project Preceded By Tree Removal

The City of Spokane Urban Forestry department wants you to know that yes, they will be removing trees starting next week in advance of the street re-paving project scheduled for Grand Boulevard from 29th Avenue to High Drive. BUT they will be replacing them after the project is complete.

In addition to pruning for vehicle clearance, work starts monday to remove nineteen damaged, declining, or poorly-placed trees. In their place 38 replacement trees will be planted this fall after the street construction is complete.

The new trees will be provided by the Spokane County Conservation District at no cost to homeowners.

Studded Tire Deadline Extended Again

Officials have extended the studded tire deadline one week for the second time this year. Washington Drivers must now remove their studded tires by the end of the day Thursday, April 14.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) extended the studded tire deadline because forecasts call for continued winter driving conditions across the mountain passes and higher-elevation areas in eastern Washington. Drivers in lower elevations who have no plans to travel across the passes are asked to remove their studded tires before April 14.

Studded tires are legal in Washington from Nov. 1 March 31, unless the deadline is extended.

Studded tires are legal in Idaho until April 30.

US 195 Interchange Open House Next Week

You're invited to an open house next week to find out how a congested area intersection will get a major safety overhaul.

Drivers at the US 195/Cheney-Spokane Road Interchange now must turn across high-speed traffic to access US 195 or Cheney-Spokane Road. When construction kicks off in spring 2012, crews will add a new freeway-style interchange at the intersection to improve safety.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will host the open house from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 5810 S. Meadowlane Road to present design and construction information on the project—including issues related to the nearby Latah Creek shoreline.

There is no formal presentation planned and people are invited to drop by anytime during the meeting. Engineering and environmental staff will be on hand to answer questions and take comments on the project.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Traffic Awareness & Pedestrian Safety Week Starts Saturday

No plans for Saturday? Well then I committed you to helping kick off the 13th annual Traffic Awareness & Pedestrian Safety Week (April 9-18) at an event on the Gonzaga campus.

Hosted by the City of Spokane Community Assembly’s Pedestrian, Transportation and Traffic Committee, the event will be hosted by City Council Member Steve Corker, Gonzaga University Executive Vice President Earl Martin, and members of the community. It's at 9 a.m. this Saturday at the Johnson Mall(502 E. Boone Ave.)

During the week, drivers are reminded to slow down, obey speed limits, and become more aware of pedestrians.

To notify drivers of the speed limit on neighborhood streets, many residents will post signs with the phrases, “Neighbors Drive 25” and “Heed the Speed 30.” To purchase one of the signs, contact the Office of Neighborhood Services at 625-6730. The Committee is also reminding residents that all intersections are considered legal crosswalks and should be treated as such, whether marked or not.

This year’s Traffic Awareness & Pedestrian Safety Week also marks the beginning of the placement of Spokane’s new mobile speed feedback signs. These radar signs provide notification to drivers of their speed. The signs are funded by revenue from the Photo Red Camera program.

For questions regarding Traffic Awareness and Pedestrian Safety Week, you can contact Roland Lamarche, Pedestrian, Transportation and Traffic Committee Chair, at 981-7964.

Freya To Close At 11th Ave. Monday & Tuesday

Beginning next Monday, April 11, Freya St. at its intersection with 11th Ave. will be closed until the evening commute on Friday, April 15. The closure is part of a City of Spokane project to replace water and sewer mains from Havana to Sherman streets.

The project also includes repairs to the following streets: 11th Ave. from Altamont Blvd. to Julia St.; N. Altamont Blvd. from 11th to Ninth avenues; and Ninth Ave. from Perry to Julia streets. Motorists will be detoured to Thor St. Additionally, Hartson Ave. between Havana and Myrtle streets remains closed to traffic.

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

Snoqualmie Closed By Snow Slide

Snoqualmie Pass is closed eastbound at milepost 34 near North Bend and milepost 47 near Denny Creek due to a snow slide. Don't worry though, crews are on the scene working to clear the slide and the estimate is that the road should be reopened by 5 p.m.

National Work Zone Awareness Week

In response to National Work Zone Awareness Week, the Washington State Department of Transportation is going orange this week. The week is about transportation and safety groups reminding drivers why they should slow down and pay attention when driving through work zones. And that the construction folks out there put their lives on the line every day.

Here's what WSDOT is doing this week.

The best way to be safe in work zones starts with knowing where they are, so you can slow down in advance or plan alternate routes around them. That's where the website comes in. It's got information on all area road construction projects, as well as the projects marked on maps, and links to local live traffic cameras. Check it out please.

New Funding Initiative Emphasizes Local Self-Help

Yesterday I blogged about the need for alternative sources of funding for transportation and how being taxed by the amount of miles you drive is a very real posibility in the future.

Today we're going to talk about another proposal for financing the future of transportation; an initiative called America Fast Forward (AFF). AFF basically takes existing initiatives such as Build America Bonds and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and revises them to provide funding for the next generation of infrastructure projects, while detangling financing from earmarks and appropriations.

A key component of AFF is creating Transportation & Regional Infrastructure Project (TRIP) bonds. A Transportation Finance Corporation would be created that would control the issuing of $50 billion in bonds over six years, and the repayment process. At least 1% of would go to qualified projects in every state, with the remaining funding competitive for larger qualified projects.

The Brookings Institution website has more information. Read the article and let me know what you think of AFF.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mapquest Now Offers Traffic Reports

Do you ever Mapquest a location, jump in your vehicle and start heading the direction the mapping website provided, only to end up stuck in a traffic jam? Well, not anymore. Mapquest is now including traffic reports on their site. Just enter your start and end addresses, click 'enter,' then click the 'live traffic' button in the upper right hand corner of the map that's provided. I just did that and it's showing heavy traffic on Division and Browne into the downtown area and heavy traffic on I90. The traffic report is updated every five minutes on mapquest.

Of course, keep in mind that you can find a lot more detailed info on traffic conditions, especially those related to construction projects, at

Pros And Cons Of Taxing Vehicle Miles Travelled

I've been trying to get this article that @Charles gave me posted for a week now. Times are busy here at SRTC.

The article, from the AccountingToday website (yes, even accountants have a tie to transportation. It affects everyone), talks about the pros and cons of possibly imposing taxes on vehicle miles travelled, instead of raising gas taxes to raise the money needed to keep our transportation system going. The biggest pro: you only pay when you drive so if you can't afford it, drive less. The biggest con: The way the program is proposed in this article, it would require expensive metering devices in every car to measure miles driven.

The biggest pro for me about this article: The comments that follow. Especially the one from 'Bob' who suggests putting Americans back to work by hiring more government workers. Instead of putting a metering device in each car, a government worker would be placed in every car to mark your mileage.

While that comment is funny, there are some pretty thought-provoking ideas and statements posted, so check it out and let me know if you have any thoughts that weren't already covered.

Help For Businesses On Construction Routes

Do you own or manage a business that's on a route slated for road construction this year? There's a lot of construction planned for this year, so the chances are good. Not that it's a bad thing. More construction means more nice new roads and more people working. It also means we're getting 'more bang for our buck' because contractor prices are so low this year.

Its not so great for businesses though. Some people prefer not to deal with the challenges of getting to a business near where construction is taking place. If one of those businesses is yours, the City of Spokane and the Downtown Spokane Partnership can help you keep business moving. Check out the new website to find out how to get your 'Business Open' sign (it won't be just like the one above). The sites' 'Business Survival' page also has other resources and ideas to help with business both during and after construction.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Do You Want The Pedestrian Bike Bridge To Look Like?

The folks at the City of Spokane need some feedback on the University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge project before they can move forward.

The project team is asking what type of bridge you would prefer. Based on input received over the past few months and further study, they've narrowed the range of options to one set of landings and two bridge options. Now the fun part comes in; you get to help decide. Here's a link to the Bridge website. All the options are explained there, complete with visulations (which are pretty cool.

Be sure to check out the one that looks like the Peace Arch). After familiarizing yourself with the choices, take the the REALLY quick survey to give your opinion on which options to go with. Again, more visualizations, some of which aren't posted on the regular website.

This is your chance to shape the aesthetics of Spokane, so jump on it.

Stevens Pass Open Again

After being shut down for a few hours earlier today due to snow slides, Stevens Pass on US 2 is now open again.

Expert Advises Spokane To Invest In Mass Transit

A transit expert in town last week said Spokane would be smart to begin investing in mass transit improvements now. And a handful of construction projects are starting this week. Here's what's happening in transportation this week from the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column.

Older Folks Have Trouble Crossing Roads, Multitasking

I've never been a coordinated person. I've always had trouble walking and chewing gum, and now the 'experts' are telling me it's just going to get worse?? That's right, this article from NPR's Health Blog says individuals over age 59 face an increased risk of injury when crossing busy complicated streets while multitasking. By 'multitasking' they mean listening to music or talking on a cell phone. Younger folks though don't seem to have the same problem.

Snoqualmie Construction Starting Again

For those of you planning to make a trip to Seattle or the west side anytime between now and next fall, the Washington State Department of Transportation wants you to know construction is kicking off again on Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.

In fact, they're dubbing it 'one of our largest construction seasons in memory' for the pass. Delays associated with detours, lane closures, slowdowns, and rock blasting operations may all add to your travel time so take that into consideration when planning your trip

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.