Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holiday Closures

We've got a long holiday weekend ahead, which means government offices will be closed Monday. The biggest thing though is that most construction work will be suspended by noon tomorrow in anticipation of increased holiday traffic. Work resumes bright and early Tuesday morning. Some long-term restrictions will remain in place though, including:

- US 395 just north of Spokane reduced to one lane in each direction for about a mile.
- Southbound US 2 just north of Spokane in the vicinity of the North Spokane corridor freeway interchange is reduced to one lane.
- I-90 is reduced to 2 lanes in each direction just west of downtown Spokane.

Besides construction, get the rest of your government business done Friday because all City Halls and other government services will be closed until Tuesday, and that includes in neighboring Kootenai County.

Spokane City parking meters don’t have to be plugged on July 4.

WSDOT Team Refuses Prize Money

To put it mildly, government workers sometimes get a bad reputation for being lazy folks who just want to spend your tax dollars leaning on a shovel or surfing the internet. While every industry has it's dead weight, most government workers I know are passionate about their roles as civil servants. None more so than a group of Washington State Department of Transportation workers who recently rejected prize money for figuring out a way to save taxpayers millions of dollars.

KOMO News has the amazing story of this team who put their heads together for the good of the state.

New Red Light Cameras Start Working Tomorrow

New City of Spokane intersection safety cameras will begin taking photos of red-light runners at several new intersections tomorrow at 8:00am. During the 30-day warning period, the photo enforcement cameras will capture still images and video of red-light running violations. A warning notice will be issued to the vehicle’s owner. There is no fine for this warning notice. At the completion of the warning period, July 31st, citations will be issued.

The new photo enforcement cameras will be located at the following intersections:

• Second Ave. westbound at Walnut St.
• Maple St. southbound at 2nd Ave.
• Browne St. southbound at 3rd Ave.

Spokane already has seven intersections with cameras that have been up and running since 2008. Since that time, they’ve captured over 23,000 red light runners. It’s important to note that the warning period is only for the new intersections. The original photo enforcement cameras will continue to issue citations to red-light runners and are located at the following intersections:

• Browne St. southbound at Sprague Ave.
• Hamilton St. northbound at Mission Ave.
• Division St. north and southbound at Francis Ave.
• Wellesley Ave. eastbound at Ash St.
• Freya St. northbound at 3rd Ave.
• Thor St. and 2nd Ave. both westbound and southbound
• Division St. northbound at Sprague Ave.

U.S. 95 Lane Reductions Through CDA

U.S. 95 is a major route through Coeur d'Alene, so if you drive there, you'll want to know about a major shift coming to the highway. A paving project starts Wednesday, July 6 on 95 from Wyoming Avenue to Idaho 53 and is expected to be finished by September.

Traffic will be shifted from a divided four lane road to an undivided two lane road. Traffic will be rerouted at median crossovers placed at either end of the project.
The southbound lanes will be closed for paving for two to three weeks, and two-way traffic placed on the northbound lanes. When completed, traffic will be shifted again to the southbound lanes, and the northbound lanes will be paved.

Once paving is complete, the traffic signal at Lancaster Road will be activated.
The speed limit will be reduced to 45 mph at all times through the length of the project corridor.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Show Some Respect For Your DD!

A story out of KBOI in Boise says police arrested a woman who tried to hit her designated driver with a car! A teenage girl allegedly picked up an older friend to drive her home after she'd been drinking.

While in the car, the drunk woman hit the teen and tried to take control of the wheel, forcing her out of the car. The intoxicated woman got behind the wheel and tried to hit the teenager! She was able to get out of the way of the vehicle safely though.

The intoxicated woman was charged with aggravated assault, grand theft, and driving under the influence.

Are Right Turns On Red Dangerous For Pedestrians?

My office is at the corner of Sprague and Bernard. Most days I ride the bus to work, so I have to get back to the bus stop at the end of the day. That requires crossing Sprague headed northbound. Four out of five days, someone nearly runs me over when I'm attempting to do this, then yells at me. This is because, when the light is red at that corner, drivers can take a free right turn after stopping. The light changes to red, I look for the 'walk' sign to go, then generally am almost creamed by someone who either didn't stop or merely paused at the red before taking their free turn, then yells at me for having the audacity to walk when the light tells me to.

I mention this because the topic of the Where the Sidewalk Starts blog today is how dangerous right turn on red are for pedestrians. Sentiment lately seems to be that they're not dangerous, but some research shows otherwise.

Letter Says Bicyclists Not Hurting Others

Smaller than a combine
Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor

I ride a bicycle on “narrow winding country roads” because I like to. I go for the scenery of this beautiful region. I am not trying to make a point, improve my health, nor save on my fuel bill. I just like to ride. I do NOT ride a bicycle to get in the way or to purposefully irritate anyone.

Mr. Wright (Letters, June 19) said, “bicyclists insist on disregarding safety for themselves and others.” What does a bicyclist do that would disregard others’ safety? How much damage can I do? (me and my bike weigh less than 200 pounds). As far as my own safety, right or wrong, I get hurt in a collision. I don’t like that, so I try to avoid it.

Farm implements travel down these same roads at bicycle speeds. They are much larger and harder to pass than a bike. I wonder if that is a problem for Mr. Wright?

For some reason, Mr. Wright is simply inconvenienced by bicycles. Life is inconvenient, delays abound. I don’t mind sharing the road with him.

These are PUBLIC rights of way upon which I will ride until I am no longer part of the public.

Tomás Kelley Lynch

Officer Typing Just Before Hitting Pedestrian

It turns out a Spokane police officer who hit and killed a pedestrian in his patrol car in January was typing a message into his onboard computer just before the crash. Spokane's police Ombudsman concluded that inattentive driving was a factor in the tragedy but agreed with prosecutors that no charges were warranted.

The Spokesman-Review has the story.

CDA Intersection Blockages

If you drive in Coeur d'Alene, there are some intersections you may want to avoid in the next month. The city’s Wastewater Utility will begin the 2011 Cured-In-Place-Pipe (CIPP) project this week, involving the rehabilitation of approximately 7,850 linear feet of existing sewer piping.

The process involves the insertion and curing of the liner material from existing manholes, which are typically located in the intersections of streets and/or alleys. That means machinery and trucks will partially obstruct affected intersections. With a few exceptions, all work will take place during daylight hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the project will be completed by mid-August.

The following streets and alleys will be affected:

• Alley east of Nora Street from Emma to Davidson.
• 2nd Street from Poplar to Hazel.
• Hazel Avenue from 2nd to 7th.
• 5th Street from Poplar to Hazel.
• 7th Street from Locust to Harrison.
• Alley east of 18th north of Young.
• Off-road sewer line from Anton to Haycraft.
• Haycraft between Government Way and US 95.
• East side of US 95 from Haycraft to Appleway.
• Parking areas and driveways south of Appleway, immediately east and west of Government Way.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Is Transportation Planning Important?

So. Why is transportation planning so important? I'll leave it to Spokane City Council member Jon Snyder to explain, as he does in this post on his blog. on the fight to leave a planning project in the 6-Year Street Plan. Nicely worded Mr. Snyder.

Indiana/Sullivan Project Open House Reminder

A reminder that Spokane Valley is hosting an open house this week to help businesses and community members prepare for the traffic impacts of the upcoming project to resurface the Indiana/Sullivan intersection.

The Open House is Thursday, June 30 from 6-7:30pm in Community Room at Spokane Valley Mall.

While construction is under way, Sullivan Road will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Depending on the phase of the project, closures and restrictions along Indiana on both sides of Sullivan will vary. Those whose destinations lie outside the immediate project area are encouraged to use alternative routes, which include:

• Use Evergreen to access Indiana west of Sullivan, including Spokane Valley Mall.
• Use Broadway and Flora to the new Mission Parkway (currently under construction) to access businesses east of Sullivan on Indiana.
• Use Pines Road or Barker Road as alternatives for north- and south-bound through traffic.

The project is anticipated to start in late July and finish in early September.
Businesses in the project area will remain open during construction.

Major I90 Impact Project Coming

More than 100,000 drivers a day on I-90 in east Spokane will find their travels slowed during July and August while two freeway bridges get some much-needed repairs and resurfacing.

Starting Monday, July 11, crews will remove the existing asphalt surface to reach and repair the underlying concrete bridge deck and concrete approach slabs on the Altamont Street and Havana Street structures.

Traffic will be squeezed into two lanes in each direction, 24-hours-per-day, until the project’s scheduled completion Aug. 4.

To keep traffic flowing, WSDOT will also reduce I-90’s four lanes to two lanes in the 1.4-mile section between the bridges, plus several on and off ramps will be closed.

Highway 27 Designated Scenic Byway

Congratulations to SRTC Board member Micki Harnois, who also serves as Mayor of Rockford. She was recently succesful in getting Highway 27 from Rockford to Tekoa designated a scenic byway.

With the designation comes the ability to apply for grants to pay for bike and pedestrian paths and recreational amenities. The Spokesman-Review has the story.

BikeStyle Spokane Shopping Event

Ladies, need cute bike clothes and accesories? Bike to Work Barb is hosting another 'BikeStyle Spokane Treats and Shopping' event tomorrow.

Not only can you get bicycle items though, you can also enjoy wine, a massage, bike-themed jewelry by a local artist, purchase the Complete Streets Bike Zine, and check out such apparel as 'Pedal Panties,' panniers that look like purses and lots more.

All the details are here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Road & Lane Closures For Weekend & Next Week

New local road and lane closures for this weekend and next week are posted at

City Ped Plan Open House Next Wednesday

The City of Spokane is updating the city-wide Pedestrian Plan and asking for your input at an open house next week.

Phase I of the Pedestrian Plan Update will focus on public education and sidewalk infrastructure installation. There are more than 650 miles of missing sidewalks in the City of Spokane and a limited funding for sidewalk improvements. This is the first phase in completing a citywide pedestrian network and will identify priorities based on generators, such as schools, parks, commercial areas, and STA bus stops

An open house on Wednesday, June 29, will gather input on this topic. The open house is 5-7 p.m. at the Northeast Youth Center, 3004 E. Queen Ave.

7-Year-Old Charged Drives 50 Miles Alone In Car

A 7-year-old Michigan boy who drove a car for 20 miles, sometimes hitting speeds of 50 mph, was charged Wednesday with unlawful use of a vehicle. The prosecutor in the case said he filed the charge to get the boy and his family some assistance, such as counseling, although I suspect what he needs is discipline. Or a scholarship. If he can drive that far at seven, who's to say what he could do with a little guidance? The Idaho Press Tribune has the story.

I Don't Have The Words To Describe This

Not exactly transportation-related but it involves dogs, a tiny car and racing. I'd say it fits right in on this blog.

Spokane Summer Parkways A Hit

I was sidelined with a sinus infection last night, so wasn't able to go play at this year's first Spokane Summer Parkways, but judging from pictures I've seen, it was a great time and well attended. Eve in our office went and said there were hundreds, if not a thousand, people taking part. She said there were lots of young children on bikes and scooters, which is always good to see, and lots of random people giving out lemonade and root beer floats. Nice work Spokane! Here are some pics from of last night's event.

Sullivan Road Bridge Weight Restrictions

Weight restrictions have been posted on the southbound Sullivan Road Bridge across the Spokane River. The older of two that span the river at that location, the sixty-year-old bridge is showing signs of deterioration, such as cracks in the girders and deterioration of the bridge surface.

The restrictions will help limit further deterioration until the bridge can be replaced. The decision to post the restrictions was not an easy one due to the large number of heavy commercial vehicles that use it and the significant economic impact of restricting those vehicles. City engineers hoped that a firm replacement date for the bridge would be identified before it became necessary to post restrictions.

Plans for replacing the bridge are already under way, with design work anticipated to begin this year. About half of the estimated $19.7 million needed to replace the bridge has been received from federal sources distributed through WSDOT, and from the state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board. Additional funding sources are being sought to make up the balance.

Detailed descriptions of weight restrictions are available here by selecting the Public Works link under the Departments tab.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hatch Road Project Complete!

Hatch Rd. from 57th to 43rd avenues is open! Construction on Hatch Road, a project funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, began in April and wrapped up today, slightly ahead of schedule. The project rehabilitated Hatch Rd. from 57th to 43rd avenues and installed new curbs, sidewalks, a bike lane, and turn lane. Crews still have minor detail work remaining, and you may encounter minor obstructions over the next couple of weeks while that work is being done.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Spokane/Yakima Rank In Top 10 For Most Car Thefts

Where in the United States do you think the most cars are stolen? A new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau says Fresno, CA has edged out Modesto as the car-theft capital, but several other California cities are in the top 10.

The good news: nationwide, car theft is slowing down, by 7.2% since 2009.

The bad news: the only regions outside of California in the top 10 are Yakima and Spokane. What the.... ??? You can get the whole story here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Road Closure

14th Ave. from Lincoln to Wall is closed to repair a broken water valve.

TBD Board Needs Applicants

Interested in helping maintain the City’s streets and sidewalks? A reminder that the City of Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board is seeking applicants for a citizen advisory board to help determine priorities for TBD funding.

Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District is an independent taxing district created to help the City better maintain its street system and pedestrian infrastructure.

Money raised through a $20 vehicle registration fee, collected starting in September, will pay for street maintenance and pedestrian improvements outlined in the City’s Six-Year Pavement Maintenance Program. The fee will raise about $2.6 million annually.

The Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) will assist in this work. Application forms are available here.

Accident Reports Now Online

Traffic accident reports are getting high tech- the WSDOT is now allowing you to access your accident report online, seat belt emphasis patrols are on, and a plethora of construction projects. That's what's happening in transportation this week and the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column has the details.

Spokane Summer Parkways This Wednesday

The first Spokane Summer Parkways event is this Wednesday, June 22 in the Comstock/Manito Neighborhood from 6-9 p.m. The focus of Spokane Summer Parkways is on recreation, fitness, and community when stretches of roads are closed to vehicles and opened to bikes, pedestrians, skaters, and other human-powered transportation.

Physical fitness activities like yoga, Zumba, hula hoops, tai chi, fencing, dancing, Pilates, self defense, jump rope, hacky sack, and martial arts will be offered free along the course to encourage a healthy lifestyle for everyone. Folks of all ages and abilities may enter and exit the course at any point and enjoy these activities. Participants are also encouraged to bring their own games and hobbies along (e.g. picnics, music, chalk art, hopscotch, bubbles, juggling, jump rope, etc).

For more information, and a map of the roads to be closed, check out the Spokane Summer Parkways website.

More CDA Road Closures

This is looking like a busy week in Coeur d'Alene in the way of transportation. This weekend is Ironman, which means Wednesday, around 1:30 p.m., crews will begin to set up barricades and a detour route for the closure of Sherman Avenue between 2nd Avenue and Independence Point.

1. Southbound traffic wanting to get into the downtown area will be detoured to Lakeside Avenue to 2nd, 3rd or 5th streets, etc., to reach Sherman Avenue.
2. Resort traffic should use 1st Street.
3. Westbound traffic will be detoured southbound onto 2nd Street and Front Avenue. These vehicles will loop around onto 4th Street and exit the downtown on Lakeside or north on 4th Street. 2nd Street at Sherman will be closed to northbound traffic. This area has been very congested in the past and being an ITD bypass route, we have always chosen to close traffic northbound and to leave it open to just southbound traffic.
4. Bleachers will be staged on Sherman at 5:00 p.m. on the 22nd and will stay in place until the afternoon of June 27th.
5. The Independence Point parking lot will be closed early Wednesday as they set up medical tents and Ironman stores.
6. At the time of the closure, the signals at 2nd and Sherman will be put in the red flash mode and the signal at Lakeside and Independence Point will be shut off to keep traffic flowing.

Mullan Avenue, from 17th to 23rd streets, will be “NO PARKING” on the north side on Saturday, June 25th, and entirely closed to traffic on race day, Sunday, June 26th.

Get Local Traffic Updates Via Twitter

Are you on Twitter? If yes, be sure to follow the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center. They'll be using Twitter to send you traffic updates as they happen, which will help you avoid getting stuck in traffic.

Transportation Commission Meeting Tomorrow

Take the day off tomorrow so you can attend the Washington State Transportation Commission meeting. The Commission provides a public forum for transportation policy development. It reviews and assesses how the entire transportation system works across the state and issues the state’s 20-year Transportation Plan.

The Commission takes turns holding meetings in different locations across the state and this time it's in Cheney. Here's a look at the agenda. The meeting is open to the public so feel free to attend. You'll get to sit through my fabulous 'Transportation Vision Project' presentation. Can't think of a better way to spend a Tuesday.

U.S. 95 Lane Closures Through CDA

If you're travelling through Coeur d'Alene at night this week, be ready for some possible delays on U.S. 95. Starting last night, crews are installing new traffic sensors from Ironwood to Hayden Avenue will be affected.

Work began at Ironwood and will work north to Hayden. Work hours are 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Wednesday night (June 22). The work will require lane closures through the work zone area. Cores will be drilled in the pavement and sensors placed in each travel lane.

The sensors will improve activation at each intersection, and aid in the synchronization of all traffic signals in the U.S. 95 corridor through Coeur d’Alene and Hayden.

Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Utopia In Florida

Some of you are probably familiar with the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) movement happening in some communities. Liberty Lake has many NEV paths and you often see NEVs at the local grocery store. There's also a movement in Hillyard to create a NEV community. Well, here is NEV utopia. This video is of a Florida community that has 90 miles of NEV paths- and 50,000 of the vehicles using them everyday! That's a lot of golf carts! Entertaining video too, check it out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Any Areas You Avoid Walking Through?

I just received a tweet complaining about a large pile of what appears to be human feces at Main and Post, which reminded me of my short-lived campaign to get the folks at the Ridpath to clean up their sidewalks after the weekend. I actually changed my route from the STA Plaza to my office because I was tired of walking past vomit, feces, blood and other unidentified fluids and materials every Monday morning. Are there any areas you avoid due to unsavory sights? Try to keep your language clean please ;)

Indiana/Sullivan Project Open House

To help businesses and community members prepare for the traffic impacts of the upcoming project to resurface the Indiana/Sullivan intersection, an Open House on the project is scheduled for Thursday, June 30 from 6-7:30pm in the Community Room at Spokane Valley Mall.

The $1.2 million project to replace the asphalt of the intersection with more durable concrete and install a new right turn lane from Indiana onto Sullivan to help smooth traffic is funded by Spokane Transit Authority, Washington State Department of Transportation, and the City of Spokane Valley.

While construction is under way, Sullivan Road will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Depending on the phase of the project, closures and restrictions along Indiana on both sides of Sullivan will vary. Those whose destinations lie outside the immediate project area are encouraged to use alternative routes, which include:

· Use Evergreen to access Indiana west of Sullivan, including Spokane Valley Mall.
· Use Broadway and Flora to the new Mission Parkway (currently under construction) to access businesses east of Sullivan on Indiana.
· Use Pines Road or Barker Road as alternatives for north- and south-bound through traffic.

The project is anticipated to start in late July and finish in early September.

Draft Bike & Pedestrian Master Program Available For Review

City of Spokane Valley staff asks you to review their Draft Bike and Pedestrian Master Program in advance of presenting it to the Planning Commission on June 23. Here's where you can check it out at.

The Draft Bike and Pedestrian Master Program (BPMP) will be an element of the Spokane Valley Comprehensive Plan expanding on the Transportation Element to focus on non-motorized transportation.

As an element of the City of Spokane Valley Comp Plan, this chapter includes background data concerning bike and pedestrian facilities (Section 11.1), applicable federal, state and local codes relating to the topic (section 11.2), and a set of goals and objectives (section 11.3). Section 11.4, contains the city-wide bike and pedestrian facility map, recommended improvements, and potential education, enforcement and evaluation tools. As a policy document, this chapter will guide decisions regarding multi-modal transportation facilities. As an implementation tool, it will detail priorities and standards for development, so be sure to review it and submit any comments you may have.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Give Crews A Break

Letter To The Editor: Don't judge 'lazy' road crews through a car window
Twin Falls Times News

Regarding the “laziness” of the Twin Falls Street Department, do you really think you can size up a situation with a glance out the car window and determine that the street crew is “just standing around?”

Consider, when street crew workers are “doing nothing,” they might be taking one of the two 15-minute breaks or the 20-minute lunch they are allowed during their 10-hour work day of shoveling 280-plus degree asphalt, clearing storm drains, sealing cracks in a deteriorating road or plowing snow at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning. When a crew member is standing and looking into a hole while talking on a cell phone, he is likely talking to the city engineer about the appearance of a big pipe where the map says there shouldn’t be one. The guys “standing around doing nothing” are waiting for another load of something en route from somewhere delayed by an accident on the other side of town — the debris from which one or two of them will have to go clean up. Or they are resting from the back-breaking labor their detractors don’t do to avoid injury, which would cost the city a workmen’s comp claim. The guy in the street sweeper, parked and talking on the cell phone, is talking to the crew’s supervisor, who got a call from police dispatch telling him somebody dropped a bag of trash in the street, which he has to pick up before there is an accident, which would initiate a lawsuit against the city and a scathing article in the Times-News about the ineptitude of the street department.

Stop whining about these other taxpayers who, unlike you, have foregone raises for the last three years to show sensitivity to the unemployed who were losing their homes. To thank them, you want to cut their crew, which has shrunk by four employees due to attrition, so they will have to work harder for your thinly veiled attempts to run over them when they are fixing potholes in August? Remarkable.


I have a feeling this letter is going to get some of you going, but it's true, perception isn't always what's really happening. I've worked directly and indirectly with the folks out on the front lines and know that they're not always just leaning on a shovel when it looks like they're leaning on a shovel. There's one local road crew member that I tease a lot because he uses a blue tooth so a lot of the time he will be sitting on a curb or leaning against a truck, but he's talking to contractors, supervisors, etc. while doing this. You just can't see because he has his bluetooth in.

L.A. May Remove Red Light Cameras

Los Angeles may be the next U.S. city to remove it's red light cameras. Police Commissioners there voted to kill the city's controversial red-light camera program, for the same reasons folks around here tell me they don't like them. Those reasons include a lack of evidence to backup claims that the cameras increase safety and decrease collisions and concerns that they are simply a money maker, not a safety measure. The L.A. Times has the story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Words Of Wisdom From The Bus

I love it when I have occasion to ride a different bus route than my usual one. It's like taking a tour of an area I wouldn't normally travel through, and I don't have to drive so I can enjoy the sights. And the sounds.

I just caught the #61 to Airway Heights for a meeting. On the way back I heard this exchange:

Guy: In my heart I believe we're all one people. We have to love each other and take care of each other.

Girl: Can I use your phone?

Guy: Get your own &#@$%! phone.

Dump The Pump Tomorrow

Tomorrow is National Dump the Pump Day, a day that encourages people to ride public transportation and save money, instead of driving a car. Started in June 2006 when gas prices were $3 per gallon, this national day emphasizes that public transportation is a great travel option that also helps people save money.

So what are you going to do to mark Dump the Pump Day? I'm going to ride the bus to work and home afterward, and walk to a meeting I have on the far side of Riverfront Park. We're also starting to do traffic updates on KHQ New's morning show, so I'll encourage viewers to find another way to get where they're going rather than driving alone.

Spokane Transit is also doing their part. STA has a 'Commute Calculator' on their website that shows what your commute really costs and how much CO2 it produces. Click here to check it out.

Chinook Pass Still Buried In Snow

We've been complaining around here that summer will never come, well check out these amazing pictures from Washington's Chinook Pass, where it's evidently still winter.

Crews have been hard at work clearing Chinook Pass of its record snowfall since early April. It's taking forever to get the Pass open though because snow continues to fall. There's still 20 feet of snow there! And with warmer temperatures during the day, that means some serious avalanche dangers.

Go to the WSDOT blog for more cool pictures and information on when the beautiful pass is expected to be open.

Vista Road Closure

Vista Road between Broadway Avenue and Cataldo Avenue will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5p.m. today, Wednesday, Thursday and possibly Friday for utility work. Signs will reroute traffic via Bessie.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ads On License Plates?

I can see it now; an ad for Hooters right next to your license tab. Yep, Illinois is so hard up for money that it's considering selling ads on state license plates.

The idea is to offer special corporate-sponsored plates. Drivers would get a discount on the price, and businesses would put their logos on the plates. It's not a done deal though, the secretary of state is studying the pros and cons of corporate plates.

Texas already allows corporate plates. What do you think? A good way to bring in more revenue without raising taxes or too distracting to drivers?

Transportation Secretary Answers Public Questions

He's the man when it comes to transportation in our country, and he wants to answer your questions. Ray LaHood is the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and has started a video series on his blog called 'On the Go' where he answers your questions. So what do you want to know? How the U.S. is planning to cut down on vehicle miles travelled? Where he stands on high speed rail? What's the next big innovation going to be in transportation? What kind of stickers he has on his bike helmet? Whatever you want to know, go to Mr. LaHood's Fast Lane blog and leave your question. This opens up so many opportunities I don't even know where to start.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Man's (Or Woman's In This Case) Trash...

Doing my civic duty finally paid off this weekend. Members of the property owners association in my neighborhood take turns cleaning up a stretch of road in our area. I take my turn every Sunday in June each year. Yesterday I found these hot sunglasses, making all that trash picking up so worth it.

Oh yeah, and I found an unopened can of hominy and a Little Debbie apple pie still in the box. Still debating on whether found food should be eaten. Come on, it's Little Debbie!

Bad New York Bicyclists

Goodness knows there are plenty of bad drivers out there, but this video I picked up from Larry Ehl's Transportation Issues Daily blog shows some REALLY bad behavior by bicyclists in New York. Some of this stuff is crazy.

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

Enhancement Funding Report Out

The 2010 Transportation Enhancements Spending Report is now out. The 36-page report analyzes states' use of federal transportation enhancement funding from 1992 through 2010. The report is prepared by the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse. You can check it out here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vision Project Approved By Board

Woo hoo! After one year and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, the Transportation Vision Project and the documents resulting from it have been approved by the SRTC Board! That means we can now move forward in making our 'vision' a reality.

If you're not familiar with it, check out the Vision Project here.

Construction Updates

There are new countywide road and lane closures for this weekend and next week posted at

Interview On Federal Transportation Bill Authorization

Larry Ehl of the Transportation Issues Daily blog interviewed Representative Rick Larsen this week, a senior member of the House Transportation Committee. He asked a number of questions relating to authorization of a new federal transportation bill and is posting the the questions/answers throughout the week.

Today's question: Many studies have demonstrated that investing in roads, transit, rail and bike-pedestrian facilities is one of the best ways to create new jobs and preserve existing jobs. On top of that, there's the benefits from reduced congestion, more travel options, and reduced air and water pollution. Yet the Administration and most Representatives and Senators seem unwilling to maintain or increase investment in transportation infrastructure. Is this because transportation stakeholders failed to convince legislators of the return on investment, or because the economy and budget is in such bad shape, or both? Here's the answer, in video format.

A friend sent me these pictures, which are allegedly of a traffic accident where one car had a five gallon bucket of paint in the back seat. Not sure where or when this happened, but I thought it was funny because I'm painting my house right now and this is the only calamity that hasn't happened involving paint during the course of it.

Mullan Road Lane Closure

The northbound curb lane of Mullan Road just north of Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley is closed today from 8:30 a.m. until early afternoon for utility repair.

Complete Streets T-Shirt Making Party

A group of young people is getting together to promote Complete Streets for Spokane, and you're invited to join them. Even if you're not young anymore. Or young at heart. Really, it's okay.

The kids behind 'NextUp Spokane' (they're really young adults, I'm just feeling old today) are holding a t-shirt making event Friday, June 17 from 6-9:30pm at the 'Dirty Yeti' at 1607 W. Main Ave. in Peaceful Valley.

Complete streets is the idea that you should be able to use multiple modes of transportation on our streets and be safe doing so, whether you're an elderly person walking, someone using a wheelchair or a child trying to cross the street.

If you like that idea, bring your own shirt and use NextUp Spokane's screen prints, ink and other materials to make your own I heart Complete Streets shirt. They've also got snacks if that motivates you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Downtown Roads Reopening!

Two sections of Second Avenue as well as portion of Spokane Falls Boulevard east of downtown that have been closed for construction projects are reopening!

Here’s what’s reopening:
• Second Avenue from Arthur to Division streets has been paved and is now open to traffic.
• Second Avenue from Howard Street to Sunset Boulevard is expected to be paved and open to traffic by Saturday, June 11.
• Spokane Falls Boulevard from Hamilton to Division streets is expected to reopen on Monday, June 13.

These closures are part of three separate construction projects. The City has planned about 40 infrastructure construction projects for 2011 worth some $50 million. The Mayor directed City staff to accelerate projects into 2011 and 2012 to assist the private construction industry. Work in 2011 includes about $12 million in sewer projects that were moved up from 2012 and 2013.

Information on all major road construction projects can be found at

Designation Change Wouldn't Change Much For Transportation

If you've had your TV or radio on or read any local print media lately, you've most likely noticed items regarding Spokane and Kootenai counties being merged into one statistical area, such as this one from the Spokesman-Review and this article from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Well folks, the media may have jumped on this one a little early, because while it's likely, the U.S. Census Bureau says no official designation change will happen for at least a year, and more likely closer to 2013. As far as how that affects the workings of a Metropolitan Planning Organization such as SRTC or Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, or transportation funding, we're not expecting any changes.

The only big change this is expected to bring about is how the area markets itself.

Road Rage Incident Involves Assualt With Danish

Should Passenger Rail Be Built Ahead of Demand?

I've been hearing a lot of talk about light rail in our area again lately. And while someone ALWAYS brings it up at every public meeting I attend, someone else at the same meeting always shoots it down for the same two reasons; the expense involved and the lack of density to support it in our area.

As this article from Transportation Issues Daily points out though, America's transcontinental railroads were built ahead of demand; should we be doing the same with passenger rail?

Read the article and give me your thoughts.

Memorial Day Travel Recap

Did you take a trip over the Memorial Day weekend? A lot of other people did, but overall, travel numbers across the state were down.

6,000 less vehicles traveled over Snoqualmie Pass as during the same time period last year. Those who did travel, left for their destinations earlier in the day than past years and the stretch of I5 between Olympia and Tacoma showed a slight increase in weekend traffic.

The WSDOT blog has all the holiday weekend traffic stats.

Letter Writer Doesn't Like Photo Red

Photo Red? Stop
Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor

Usually I’m all for the tough decisions made by our good mayor, but I’m a bit dismayed at the Photo Red expansion. Prior to Photo Red, the fix for problematic intersections was to extend the yellow light a couple seconds. My Google survey of Photo Red indicates a coin toss as to whether it actually helps personal safety; rear-end collisions appear to generally increase along with the associated property damage. Some unbiased Spokane data would be interesting.

If Spokane is truly interested in increasing safety at intersections, add those pedestrian countdown timers. Second Avenue is so much easier to go through smoothly with those 12 second clocks. If I’m not going to make it though an intersection, I can slow down much earlier for the inevitable red light rather than slamming on my brakes for a yellow.

Let’s remember the Corbin Park trash collection fiasco and nip this Photo Red, money-raising idea in the bud. Sending half the money collected to Arizona just makes Spokane that much poorer.

Leonard Butters

It never occured to me that drivers would use those countdown timers to determine if they have enough time to make it through the light. That scares me, because at the same time a pedestrian could be doing the same thing and a driver doing the math in their head may not notice a walker stepping out in the street.

Weight Restrictions Lifted

The recent dry, warmer weather has worked its magic and Spokane County Engineering has rescinded seasonal weight restrictions on county roads. It's safe to haul your heavy loads again.

Exit Ramp Theater Is Back

Remember these folks? They're 'Exit Ramp Theater' and they were performing Romeo and Juliet today at the eastbound Division exit off I90 around 7:30 this morning.
I originally saw this group in the same spot about a year ago, when I took this picture. At that time I talked to them briefly between traffic lights. They said they're a group of four local actors not affiliated with any theater. They just show up, perform an act from the play they've chosen for that day and have fun. I asked at the time if they are trying to make money and they said no, it's all for fun.

So I guess if you have to sit in traffic, at least they're providing some entertainment while you wait.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wells Fargo Has A New Drive Thru

Check out this picture courtesy of KXLY News of the Wells Fargo bank on Sprague in Spokane. That car crashed through it just a little while ago. No further details at this time.

Downtown Traffic Delays Expected All Week

The City of Spokane says you can expect congestion and delays on Interstate 90 off-ramps in downtown Spokane until late this week as a result of road construction projects.

A contractor is putting down a final layer of pavement on Second Avenue from Howard Street to Sunset Boulevard. As a result, lane restrictions are in place this week, and intersections without signals were closed, which has slowed traffic coming into downtown from the Lincoln and Maple exits.

Paving work from Browne to Sunset Boulevard is scheduled for Thursday and Friday nights at 7 p.m. through 6 a.m. the next morning, weather permitting. The section from Arthur to Division was completed last week though and is now open again.

Sprague and First avenues are the recommended detour routes. For more recommended detour routes and up-to-date construction closures, check out

Kootenai-Spokane Commissioners Coordinate For Greater Good

This story in the Spokesman-Review today talks about some areas in which Spokane and Kootenai county commissioners would like to coordinate their efforts to be more effective overall.

Here are a couple of the topics they are tackling: comparing notes on recycling programs, establishing a regional law enforcement pay structure so Kootenai isn't competing with Spokane County for officers, and connecting Kootenai's bus system to Spokane Transit routes to allow commuters to travel from Kootenai to Spokane County, all on public transit.

Great ideas? Of course, but the public transit one isn't a new idea. SRTC has been talking about hooking the two transit systems up for several years now. We've run into a couple barriers over the years that have prevented it from happening, so if the commissioners talking about it can make it happen, great.

The most opportune time may have passed already though, considering that SRTC used to provide transportation planning services for Kootenai County in addition to Spokane County. The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization Board recently voted to separate from SRTC and hire our former Transportation Manager, so it's hard to say what kind of affect working with a newly-formed agency could have.

Anyway, it's great to see we're moving in the direction of across the board (and border) coordination. Read the article to see what other efforts commissioners from both counties are focusing their attention on at this time.

Bike & Ped Master Plan Open House Tomorrow

Don't make plans for tomorrow after work because you're attending the open house for the Spokane Valley Bike and Pedestrian Master Program (BPMP). The meeting is 5:30-7 p.m. on June 8 at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Avenue.

In addition to seeing an inventory of the types of bike/pedestrian facilities currently available in Spokane Valley, you can examine the results of a community survey about biking and walking, review suggestions for new facilities, and share your ideas for improvements. You’ll also learn about the next steps in the process, and find out how you can stay involved and informed.

The BPMP will guide planning, development and management of existing and future bicycle, pedestrian and multi-modal connections throughout Spokane Valley.

Flora/Mission Intersection To Close for Five Weeks

The Spokane Valley road construction project to extend Indiana Avenue eastward is moving into its second phase, which includes construction of a new roundabout at the Flora/Mission intersection.

The intersection will be closed for about five weeks during construction. Traffic will be detoured along Boone, Arc and Baldwin. Because the detour is through a residential area, drivers are asked to be alert for children, pedestrians and bicyclists.

The extension will link the Sullivan corridor and Spokane Valley Mall with areas to the east. When it is completed, traffic will travel along a roadway that splits eastbound traffic and westbound traffic around a 6.3 acre football shaped area in the center that is zoned for commercial development.

To identify the roadways of the extension more clearly, the westbound segment will be named Mission Parkway and the eastbound segment will be named Indiana Parkway. Each of the new one-way road segments includes bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

About 75 percent of the project's estimated $2 million cost is funded by the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board. The balance is funded by the City of Spokane Valley.

Centennial Trail Sections Open Again

Sections of the Centennial Trail near Gateway Regional Park at the Washington-Idaho border are open again, after being closed last week due to concerns about flooding. However - the Spokane River is still running high, fast and very cold so give it a safe distance when using the trail.

Friday, June 3, 2011

We Made It Through The Week- Almost Anyway

Is it just me or has it been a tough week? Just to raise your spirits (and by 'your' I mean mine), and because I have my own bad cat, here's a flashback to my high school years when Toonces the Cat was a mainstay on Saturday Night Live. Of course it's transportation related- it's a cat that can drive! Although every sketch DID end up with Toonces driving off a cliff so apparently he couldn't drive very well.

Report Lists How Much $ Each State Would Need To Maintain Roads

We've been talking for years about how decades of underinvestment in regular maintenance have left the nation's roads in poor condition, and the cost of repairing them is rising faster than we can address it. But just how bad is the situation? A report released this week by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense examines road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states.

For instance, the report says 44% of Washington's roads have fallen out of good condition, and it would take approximately $426,173,431 per year over the next twenty years to bring them into good repair and keep them that way. The report goes on to say that, despite this need, that's not what we've been spending our transportation funds on.

Here's a link to the report so you can see where our money has been going. Plus, there's a cool interactive online map where you can click on each state to view transportation funding statistics specific to it.

Seattle Gives Parking Offenders The Boot

For those of you who complain about local parking tickets and refuse to pay them, Seattle may not be your town either. Seattle officials have made it clear to the 23,000 people with multiple outstanding parking tickets; pay up or get the boot. The car boot, that is.

The Seattle Times has the story. What do you think; fair or overreacting? I wonder how this will help the City's budget...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Lane And Road Closures

New road and lane closures for this weekend and next week are posted at

WSDOT Warns Bicyclists About Chip Seal Projects

The Washington State Department of Transportation has a number of highway construction projects underway this season and if you ride a bicycle, their “chip seal” projects may be of particular interest to you since they involve asphalt oil and loose gravel.

This website provides general information on areas to watch out for.

Keep in mind though that chip seal construction schedules are flexible and that the contractor can make day to day changes that are not noted on this weekly roundup. Also, chip seal work involves several phases which are spaced apart by a few days or even several weeks and are handled by different crews.

TBD Board Needs Applicants

Interested in helping maintain the City’s streets and sidewalks? The City of Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board is seeking applicants for a citizen advisory board to help determine priorities for TBD funding.

Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District is an independent taxing district created to help the City better maintain its street system and pedestrian infrastructure. The Spokane City Council serves as the TBD governing board separately from their Council duties.

Money raised through a $20 vehicle registration fee, which will be collected starting in September, will pay for street maintenance and pedestrian improvements outlined in the City’s Six-Year Pavement Maintenance Program. The fee will raise about $2.6 million annually.

The Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) will assist in this work. The board will include seven members—one member from each of the City’s three City Council Districts, one at-large member, and one member from each of the following committees:

• The Citizens Street Advisory Committee (CSAC), which oversees spending of the funds generated by the 2004 10-Year Street Bond.
• The Pedestrian, Traffic & Transportation (PETT) Committee of the Community Assembly.
• The Bicycle Advisory Board (BAB).

Members from the three committees will be appointed to one-year terms, while the remaining CTAB members will serve three-year terms.

Application forms are available online here. They're due by Monday, June 27.

Bike Shop Reccomendations Please

I'm looking for a place to get CooTeR, our Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) bicycle tuned up. Anyone have any suggestions? Keep in mind I'm paying for it myself (government budgets are tight these days- as is my own) so I'm looking for quality work at an affordable price.

Do Parks Need Parking?

How do you get to your favorite park? Do you walk, ride, drive? Here's something I never thought of: 'StreetsBlog' says vehicle parking at parks isn't really necessary, as many of the country’s most popular urban parks are characterized by a lack of parking.

So think about it and let me know; when you go to the park, how do you get there?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Editorial Supports Combining Spokane/CDA As Statistical Area

Because of our work with the U.S. Census Bureau, we've been talking at SRTC for several months now about the possibility of making Spokane and Kootenai counties a combined statistical area, and the implications of such a move. This editorial in the Spokesman-Review supports the designation because of the potential economic benefits it could bring.

The combined population mass often looks more attractive to businesses and events looking for new locations and the move could mean more funding for transportation and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

Read the article and let me know what you think.

Take The Pedestrian Plan Update Survey

I hear people complain a LOT about the state of sidewalks and other pedestrian issues in our area. Well, here's your chance to do something other than complain. The City of Spokane Planning Services Department is working on an update to the City's Pedestrian Plan and is offering a couple of opportunities to get involved.

The first thing you need to do is fill out this Pedestrian Questionnaire. It doesn't take long and is designed to gather information regarding walking wants and needs in the City.

Additionally, the City is planning an open house to discuss updates to the plan. The open house will be held on Wednesday, June 29, from 5-7 p.m. at the Northeast Youth Center, 3004 E. Queen Ave.

The Pedestrian Plan Update will include ways to promote pedestrian safety and access to help ensure that Spokane is a safe, convenient, and attractive place to walk.

WSDOT Fixes I90 Puddle Issue

Remember a couple weeks ago when it rained so hard (okay,it's rained hard a LOT lately) and caused a major puddle to form on the freeway near the eastbound Barker Road exit? The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) says temporary lanes constructed as part of the I90 Widening Project were to blame for not allowing the water to drain.

They temporary lanes were put in place to move traffic to one side of the freeway so the could reconstruct the other side of the freeway. Extremely heavy rains brought more water into the area than could drain off the highway, creating puddles that were several inches deep.

They've fixed the problem though by adding more asphalt to change the slope of the pavement so it will drain faster. Now if they could just do something about the weather...

Commuter Relief Act Proposed

If you're familiar with the Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) program, you know that it offers incentives, such as prizes and encouragement, to those who use alternate ways to get to work or school other than driving alone.

Legislation that was just proposed, the Commuter Relief Act of 2011, would offer even more incentives for businesses to provide transportation options to employees. The act expands a series of tax credits for individuals and employers to make it easier for those who wish to commute by bicycle, walking, carpooling, or using public transit. Specifically, the bill contains the these provisions:

*Transit Equity: Sets the uniform dollar cap for all transportation fringe benefits to $200 a month. Currently, the permanent cap is $230 for the parking benefit.

*Self Employed Extension of Transportation Fringe Benefits: Allows self-employeed individuals to receive transit fringe benefits for commuting done for work purposes.

*Parking Cashout: Requires employers who offer a parking transportation fringe benefit to employees to also offer employees the option to take cash instead, reducing the incentive to drive instead of take alternative transportation.

*VanPool Credit: Creates a 10% tax credit for expenditures on vanpool vehicles and services; an incentive for employers and employees to share their commutes.

*MultiModal Transportation: Allows individuals to combine their bike benefit with other transportation fringe benefits as long as they fall under the $200 cap.

The best news: this legislation will not add to the federal deficit. The additional credits are paid for by reducing the overall transit and parking cap from $230 to $200 a month. Here's more information on the Commuter Relief Act.

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.