Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snyder Appointed To WA Traffic Safety Commission

Spokane City Council Member Jon Snyder has been appointed by the Governor to a seat on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).

The Commission works with communities to identify and help resolve traffic safety issues; gather, analyze and report data on traffic deaths in Washington; distribute state and federal traffic safety funds; and conduct public education campaigns.

The goal of the Commission is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030.

A Ride Of Death

Holy cow, it's amazing anyone rode bicycles in the 1940s after reading this bicycle safety guide on the Retronaut website. Every picture shows someone getting crushed to death, maimed, suffering multiple fractures or a 'limp, lifeless body.' And, in pretty much every example, the bicyclist is blamed for causing an accident that could have been avoided, although in several cases the booklet even points out that a car was following too close or speeding.

City Working To Remove Snow

Here's an email I received earlier this morning from the City of Spokane regarding their snow removal efforts:

The City has plows working in teams on arterials throughout the City. We are putting emphasis on the hills on the lower South Hill. We also de-icing in downtown.

We did hold night crews longer and morning crews came in early to provide 24 hour coverage today. We have called in additional crews to work today, and currently have 29 pieces of snow removal equipment out on the City streets.

Citizens should expect packed snow and slippery conditions on their morning commute. Please ask them to slow down and not follow other vehicles too closely. Don’t pass the plows; it’s very dangerous.

Street Department officials are concerned about snow turning to sleet this morning, which could intensify slick conditions. They also are preparing for more snow today and tonight.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cliff-Cannon Neighborhood Council Looking For Transportation Improvement Ideas

Cliff-Cannon area residents- the neighborhood council is looking for YOUR suggestions to improve neighborhood streets using traffic calming funds from the City.

Send your ideas pertaining to signage, center islands, bike lanes, sidewalks, trees, curbs, etc., etc. to Judy at

Santorum Blames Housing Crisis On- Wait For It- High Gas Prices

Silly me, I thought the housing crisis was caused by Wall Street banks taking on excessive risk via subprime mortgages, and government regulators not recognizing the impending crisis before it threatened the global financial system.

Apparently I was wrong though, because Rick Santorum says high gas prices are actually what caused the housing crisis. Huh- who would have thought it? The Hill blog has the story.

Monday, February 27, 2012

USDOT Budget Recognized For Efforts To Improve Livability

While many people are complaining about the state of transportation and funding for it, and arguing over the federal reauthorization (see below),
Better Cities & Towns says the US Department of Transportation's 2013 budget is taking a new tack- going so far as to propose far reaching reforms that promote livaility and complete streets. And they've got some blueprints on how to do so, including adopting a broad complete streets, policy, consolidating programs and setting new goals, awarding communities that go 'above and beyond' the minimum when it comes to transportation and combining rail with transit-oriented development.

Here's the article.

Federal Transportation Bill Amendments

So what's the latest with the proposed Federal Transportation bill? According to Transportation Issues Daily, the Senate will continue to work on a process for handling proposed amendments to the two-year, $109 billion transportation bill. Some of those amendments are controversial, others aren't even related to transportation.

House Republican leadership late last week announced two major revisions but its unlikely they can be made in time to get through the legislative process for the full House to act on the bill this week. The revisions are:

1. Removal of the provision to eliminate dedicated funding for transit. It was becoming clear the bill could not pass with that provision, as many suburban Republicans and nearly every Democrat opposed the provision.

2. Reduce the length of the bill from five years. The new length is not yet announced but expected to be close to the Senate's two-year bill. That will reduce the amount of non-transportation revenue needed to fund the bill, which should appease conservatives troubled by how the five-year bill was funded.

These modifications mean the Senate and House bill become more similar, which makes the odds for enacting a new bill improve somewhat. Even so, many Democrats and environmental groups remain opposed to the House bill due to its provisions on energy exploration, project streamlining, and bicycle-pedestrian funding.

Money Sought For Improvements To John Wayne Trail

The Washington State Parks Department is seeking grant money to make improvements to the John Wayne Trail in our area and Spokane Valley Police are targetting agressive drivers. Here's the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column for this week.

Argonne Road Improvement Project Open House

Argonne Road, between Knox and Trent, is scheduled for a construction project this summer to improve the road and you're invited to an open house to learn about the project.

The open house is Wednesday, Mar. 7 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at Spokane Valley High School, 2011 N. Hutchinson Road.

The project includes:

 Signal replacement at Argonne/Knox
 Improving all corners at Argonne/Knox for easier/safer turns
 Upgrading curb ramps at Argonne/Knox and Argonne/Montgomery to new ADA standards
 Relocating signal pole at northeast intersection of Argonne/Montgomery
 Adding right turn lane from Argonne northbound onto Montgomery
 Installing traffic cameras for link to Spokane Regional Traffic Management Center(Note: This is not a red light camera.)

Your input, questions, and ideas will help Spokane Valley staff plan for minimizing construction impacts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Balloon Animals, Intoxicated Riders and A Stun Gun Display; Don't Worry These Are Actually The Exception To The Rule

Every once in a while my sister-in-law will relate a story to me of something that happened on her East Sprague bus route or I'll ask readers of this blog if they've ever witnessed anything out of the ordinary on the bus.

Well the Inlander took it a step further and got incident reports from Spokane Transit Authority for 2011. And some interesting stuff occured on occasion, including a man making balloon animals for other riders, which my sister-in-law has told me about before. Here's the Inlander's story. And while a lot of the stories are amusing, there are a couple instances that could have gotten ugly. But keep in mind that, based on statistics, the chances of an injury or other negative incident happening to you on the bus are actually pretty slim. So sit back and just enjoy the ride.

WA State Senate Releases Proposed Transportation Budget

State Senate transportation leaders released a proposed transportation budget Tuesday with fewer fee increases than put forward by their counterparts in the House. Under the plan, driver’s license fees would increase by 80% and the cost of a title application would spike from $5 to $12.50.

Even so, the plan fell well short of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s call last month for an infusion of $3.6 billion in transportation funds over the next decade. The Spokesman-Review has the details on what's included in the plan.

I Need A Volunteer

Anyone out there use the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) website to watch the live traffic cameras and avoid slow downs or backups? We're looking for someone to interview for a Cable 5 piece on the 10 year anniversary of the SRTMC, so let me know if you're familiar with it and are willing to go on camera. It's super easy and we'll come to you.

Shopping For Spokane Valley Information

Have questions about transportation projects or other issues in Spokane Valley and like to shop? You could come home with new jeans and new information next week on 'Spokane Valley City Hall at the Mall Day.'

On Wednesday, February 29, representatives from the City of Spokane Valley will set up temporary offices in the second floor Food Court at Spokane Valley Mall from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Specialists will be available to answer questions, share information on upcoming street projects, demonstrate use of the website to find information and file online service requests, and provide assistance with a variety of City services.

Mayor Tom Towey will be on hand to chat with visitors about their priorities for Spokane Valley, as will other members of the City Council.

Public Comment Period For Document That Shows Where Federal Transportation $ Was Obligated Locally

A 14-day public comment period starts today for the 2011 Project Obligation Report for SRTC's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

The Project Obligation Report lists the projects and programs for
which Federal transportation funds have been obligated in the Spokane region during the calendar year 2011.

The purpose of this annual report is to demonstrate continued coordination between the agencies responsible for implementing projects included in the TIP and to serve as an evaluation tool for projects included in last year's TIP.

You can review the Project Obligation Report here and submit comments by emailing them to, mailing to SRTC at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA 99201, or calling (509) 343-6370 to submit them.

The deadline to submit comments is 4 p.m. on March 7, 2012.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2011 Recap Shows Big Movement On The Transportation Front

Okay, I'm not going to lie- sometimes things take a while to happen in government. That's because there's a lot of process that goes on behind the scenes to make sure proposals, projects, studies, etc. are conducted correctly, public input is gathered, and a study is conducted, if necessary, to make sure the proposal is the right thing to do. So sometimes it seems things could move a little faster. And sometimes you don't realize how much has happened until someone points it out to you. That was the case with me, anyway, before I read Spokane City Councilmember Jon Snyder's most recent blog update- which is a recap of all he and his office and partners accomplished or were involved in in 2011. And a lot of them were in the area of transportation! That includes the passage of a Complete Streets ordinance, implementation of the Traffic Benefit District and several other transportation-related issues.

Here's the list if you would like to see what your elected official has been up to.

WSDOT Applies For TIGER Funds For North Spokane Corridor

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has submitted an application, again, for Federal TIGER funding for the North Spokane Corridor (NSC), the Spokane region's top transportation priority.

WSDOT also applied for TIGER funds in 2009 to fund the construction of the southbound lanes from Francis Avenue to Farwell Road. They were awarded $35 million in 2010.

This time around, the state is requesting $18.9 million in TIGER funds for the phase of the project that will relocate 7.5 miles of BNSF mainline, switching, and spur tracks; construct freeway and pedestrian/bicycle structures, and extends the existing 5.5 mile pedestrian/bicycle trail by over one mile into the Hillyard neighborhood. The total price tag for this phase is $31.5 million.

The NSC is so important to Spokane because it preserves our role as a hub for distribution and transportation and strengthening a significant U.S.-Canada freight route. It will improve safety while enhancing the movement of goods, reduce air pollution and provides congestion relief.

The TIGER—Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery—program is run by the U.S. Department of Transportation. USDOT is authorized to award $500 million in TIGER grants in FY 2012.

Stevens Pass Closed

Stevens Pass is closed in both directions between milepost 58 to 64 this morning due to dangerous avalance conditions. It's not clear yet when it will reopen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Man Uses Backhoe For Getaway Vehicle

Here's a new take on transportation that can't be easy on the wallet when filling it up: Spokane County Sheriff's Deputies say they caught a man driving a stolen backhoe along a busy state highway over the weekend.

Now, the man known as the "Bobcat Bandit" is in jail facing a long list of charges. Here's his story.

Question and Answer Time

I received this question from a reader of the blog late last week:

I noticed that the Children of the Sun trail is torn up at Parksmith as an on/off ramp is created for the NSC. Does anyone know when it will be back in operation? Looking forward to riding the trail again this Spring.

Today I heard back from the Washington State Department of Transportation with an answer, which is:

There are actually two contracts currently underway in the area of Parksmith that impact the Children of the Sun Trail. One project is constructing a pedestrian-bikepath bridge to carry the trail over one of the Parksmith Interchange ramps that is being built on the other project. To facilitate the reconstruction of the trail in this area from the current temporary alignment to the ultimate configuration, the trail will need to be closed until both projects are at or near completion, which is currently scheduled for late summer 2012.

Update: Snoqualmie Pass Open To Traffic Again

Snoqualmie Pass on I90 is open to traffic in both directions again after being shut down between North Bend and Ellensburg this morning due to avalanche danger. Traction tires are advised and the speed limit is reduced to 45 mph. Due to heavy rain and melting snow the roadway has standing water and slush in places.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting Agenda

Has it already been a month? The Transportation Advisory Committee meets for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting next Monday, Feb. 27 at 3:30 p.m. here at SRTC, 221 W. First. Here's the agenda and packet. Everyone is welcome so feel free to attend.

Thank An Engineer This Week

Did you all know it's National Engineers Week? Yeah, I didn't either until I saw it on Twitter this morning. Being in the transportation world, there are a lot of engineers in my life. Not only are they co-workers and peers at other agencies, but also several of my friends are engineers. And let me tell you, you've never partied 'til you've partied with an engineer.

I'll skip the stories though and refer you to the list below from Robert, co-head of 'Thank an Engineer' at the Texas Instruments Blog.

Robert says the list is items you're no longer allowed to use unless you thank an engineer for creating them. And below that is a short list of acceptable things you can give the engineers in your life as a thank you. Legal disclaimer- I'm just passing this on, not endorsing it.

Thanks an engineer for creating these items:
•Computer (desktop or laptop)
•Media player
•Personal medical devices (actually, you can keep using this if you don't thank an engineer because we want you to stay healthy, but it'd be cool if you thanked an engineer for it)
•Cell Phone
•Your car
•Anything that harnesses the power of electricity
•Video game console
•Roller coasters
•Musical instruments
•Your house or apartment

Acceptable gifts to give an engineer as a thank you:
•A big hug
•Giant, oversized stuffed computer chip
•A firm handshake
•An e-card
•A handwritten note
•A book (but something substantial, none of that vampire business)

Uh, I'm no engineer but I second that part about the vampire business.

First Annual Spokane Bike Swap Coming Mar. 24 & 25

Here's something to mark on your calendar; the 1st Annual Spokane Bike Swap on March 24-25, 2012 at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center. Go ahead, I'll wait while you write it down.

The Swap, hosted by a team of civic leaders and partnering with the Friends of the Centennial Trail, is a great venue to sell your bike, upgrade your bike, and buy new and used bicycles and accessories. The goal is to enhance the biking community by providing an inclusive venue and affordable bicycles that can be used for recreation, health and fitness, and transportation. Proceeds from the event will be used to further the efforts of the Friends of the Centennial Trail, a non-profit organization.

There will be lots of local vendors, including Wheelsport, North Division Bicycle Shop, Fitness Fanatics, NorthWest Recumbent Cycles, Emde Sports, Bicycle Butler and Terra Sports. Several organizations will be on hand to answer questions and provide educational information. Spokane Transit will be demonstrating how to load a bike on a bus. And, East Spokane Kiwanis will also be giving instruction on the proper fitting of bicycle helmets.

Admission for this event is only $5.00 per person, 12 and under is free along with free parking! Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to noon. Here's more info.

Friday, February 17, 2012

TTC Meeting Agenda

SRTC's Transportation Technical Committee meeting is next Wednesday, February 22. Here's a look at the agenda. Feel free to attend if interested, looks like there could be some interesting conversations. And there's a public comment period so if you have a transportation-related thought, either about an agenda item or otherwise, come say your piece.

Future oF Driving Includes Driverless Cars And Vehicle Convoys

Driverless cars and road trains. Crazy stuff. What's next, jetpacks? The Where The Sidewalk Starts blog is talking about how Nevada has finalized rules allowing driving permits for robotic cars. And Europe expects to see 'convoys' of driverless cars hit their roads by 2020. That's right, you wirelessly connect your car to the back end of a convoy, driven by a human professional driver in an engine ahead, then sit back and relax while someone else does the driving. Wow, I hate long drives, I'm moving to Europe!

Aussies Deliver To The Point And Funny Road Safety Campaign

Those Aussies! They're a little less PC than us sometimes. But you can't call them boring. This is a road safety campaign sign in Australia. And here is the road safety campaign video that goes with it. It's funny, but includes a little blue humor probably not encouraged on a government agency website. No bad words or anything but maybe PG-13.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Southbound Sullivan Road Bridge To Reopen All Lanes Tomorrow

The southbound Sullivan Road Bridge across the Spokane River is scheduled to reopen all lanes to traffic around mid-day tomorrow, February 17. Once southbound traffic is fully restored to the southbound bridge, the northbound bridge will be restored to full use for northbound traffic.

Earlier this week, crews partially opened the southbound bridge to a single lane of traffic while concrete medians were poured and traffic barriers were replaced. The bridge had been closed since January 9 for temporary repairs to help prolong its functional use until it can be replaced.

Vehicles on the southbound bridge will no longer be subject to weight restrictions posted in early 2011. Lifting the restrictions allows local businesses to resume using the bridge for carrying heavy loads across the river.

Dutch Produce Vehicle Airbag To Protect Bicyclists/Pedestrians

Obviously, the best way to prevent injuries to bicyclists in collisions with vehicles is for drivers to slow down and be more observant and bicyclists to do the same, plus follow the rules of the road. However, that doesn't always happen so in the event that a car does hit a bicyclist, technology is trying to help minimize the damage.

A consortium in the Netherlands has been working on an airbag that would protect pedestrians and bicyclists in the event of a crash. The technology consists of a sensor on the front or bumper of a vehicle that alerts the car when it's approaching an object to either automatically apply the brakes or deploy an airbag on the front of the car.

The blog has the details.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

White House Threatens to Veto Transportation Bill

The Obama administration last night blasted the House’s five-year transportation proposal and issued the White House’s first veto threat of the year.

Among the administration's concerns: the bill may not have been constructed with bipartisan support, it severs the link between the gas tax and federal transit funding, reduces Amtrak subsidies, and doesn’t invest enough in safety.

Politico has the rest of the story.

Pedestrian Hit & Killed By Vehicle In Airway Heights

KHQ News is reporting that a pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle shortly after 6 a.m. this morning at Hayford and 9th in Airway Heights.

A male, said to be in his mid-50s, was attempting to cross Hayford to get to a bus stop when he was struck by a dark SUV traveling at a high rate of speed. Hayford is shut down in both directions.

No charges have been filed yet but Sheriff's deputies says if its determined the driver was speeding, he or she will likely face charges.

Govt. Offices Closed Monday & Buses On Holiday Schedule

A couple things you should know about next Monday, Feb. 20. It's President's Day so most government offices will be closed and Spokane Transit buses will run on a holiday schedule that day. That means some 'commuter routes,' such as the 174 to Mirabeau Park and Ride and Liberty Lake, won't run that day. Here's a link to the STA website so you can see what times your bus runs on Monday.

Here at SRTC, we take President's Day as a 'floating holiday,' meaning we can either take that day off or take a day off at a later date, so the office will be open. The City of Spokane will also be operating as normal, but it will be a parking meter holiday, so a good day to come downtown for shopping or to play in the park. The County will be closed, as will Spokane Valley.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Federal Transportation Bill Split Into Three Separate Bills

Things are really starting to move on the Federal Transportation Bill front. This morning, Transportation Issues Daily says House Republican leadership subdivided the transportation bill into three bills: transportation, energy (expanded oil/gas drilling) and funding offsets. That means there will be three separate votes on these bills. Afterwards though, they'll be cobbled back together and sent over to the Senate as one bill again.

According to House Speaker John Boehner, this is an attempt to “pass bills in a more transparent manner and reverse the era of quickly moving massive bills…without proper examination.”

Opponents of the bill will certainly echo Rahall’s comments and call for revisions to the bill.

The Rules Committee is meeting late Tuesday and on Wednesday to determine the debate and voting rules for proceeding with the three bills and amendments.

Council Retreat Focuses On Transportation & Tie To Economic Development

A recent retreat of Spokane Valley City Council members focused largely on transportation and preserving the City's roads, and how stimulating business in the Valley ties into transportation.

The subjects of spurring economic development and street preservation took up the entire morning of the retreat and even spilled over after lunch. Here's the story from the Spokane Valley News Herald.

Tax Vehicles By Weight Instead Of A Gas Tax?

I blogged yesterday about the Senate passing a bill to charge electric-car owners a $100 annual fee to compensate for the lack of gas taxes they pay.

Many states, Washington included, linked funding for roads to a tax added to the price of gasoline years ago, only now the money isn't coming in because people are cutting back their gas consumption by driving more fuel-efficient cars, using alternative transportation to driving alone or just cutting back on driving.

So what to do? Charles Trentelman of the Standard-Examiner blogs has an idea- get rid of the gas tax and instead tax vehicles based on their weight. That way the heaviest vehicles that damage our roads the most also pay the most taxes. Read the blog post and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Southbound Sullivan Road Bridge Expected To Partially Reopen Tomorrow

The southbound Sullivan Road Bridge across the Spokane River is expected to partially reopen to traffic tomorrow, according to a news release just sent out by Spokane Valley officials. The bridge has been closed since January for temporary repairs to help prolong its functional use until it can be replaced.

Traffic will remain temporarily reduced to one lane northbound on the northbound bridge and one lane southbound on the southbound bridge while contractors pour concrete traffic islands and replace barriers on the north end of the bridges. If weather conditions cooperate, both bridges may be completely reopened to traffic on Friday, February 17, about a week ahead of schedule.

Traffic on the southbound bridge will no longer be subject to weight restrictions posted in early 2011. Lifting the restrictions allows local businesses to resume using the bridge for carrying heavy loads across the river.

Planning and design work is already under way for a replacement southbound bridge. About half of the estimated $19.7 million needed for the replacement has been received from federal sources distributed through WSDOT, and from the state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board.

Senate Passes Fee For Electric Car Owners

The Olympian is reporting that the Senate passed a bill to charge electric-car owners a $100 annual fee to compensate for the lack of gas taxes they pay.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, the Camano Island Democrat who sponsored the bill, said that while electric cars are good for the environment, they put the same wear and tear on the state’s roads that gas vehicles do.

The same bill passed in the Senate last year but failed in the House.
Washington’s gas tax stands at 37.5 cents per gallon and is the state’s largest source of transportation money.

The bill does not apply to hybrid vehicles or to those that don’t exceed 35 mph.

House & Senate Both Expected To Vote On Transportation Bills This Week

Looks like it will be another busy week for transportation in the Federal government. Both Chambers will be in session and are expected to debate and conduct votes on their transportation bills.

The Transportation Issues Daily blog predicts the House will pass its five-year, $260 billion bill later this week and the Senate will eventually pass its two-year, $109 billion bill.

So does that mean there will be a final Federal transportation bill passed soon? Eh, probably not. Transportation Issues Daily also says it's a huge uphill battle for the House and Senate to negotiate a final bill before the March 31 expiration of SAFETEA-LU so you can most likely look for another extention.

An Opportunity To Improve What We Do And How We Do It

An article in the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column today talks about SRTC's recent Federal Certification Review. The Certification process takes place every four years and is a review by the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Washington State Department of Transportation to make sure we're doing everything we're supposed to be doing. It's so basically a performance evaluation for the entire agency.

As I've said here before, SRTC has gone through some big changes recently. Our former director left last year and our new Executive Director has been here about four months. He's working with us to take a look at where we're going as an agency and how we do things. However, based on where we've been, we knew in advance that there would be some changes recommended in the certification review. So I wasn't too surprised today when I saw the Spokesman article saying SRTC "is getting its knuckles rapped" in the review. We prefer to look at it as "getting new direction."

A couple of things the review pointed out and that are in the Spokesman article include that we failed to include public transit and other alternatives to automobile travel in our main transportation plans,
our Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) fails to account for fiscal constraints on its proposed projects, and the MTP doesn't adequately address how public comments are handled.

There were also some positive aspects noted in the review, including SRTC undertaking the Inland Pacific Hub study, a business-inspired planning effort to identify freight mobility needs, and conducting the Transportation Vision Project to identify the region's transportation future for the long term.

As I said, we've known this was coming and have already been working to address the issues, even before receiving the certification report a couple weeks ago. For instance, there is a huge effort underway here to revamp the Metropolitan Transportation Plan. We're not just redlining the old one, we're starting over completely, beginning with identifying our 'core values' and how they translate into guiding principles. The new MTP will be developed around these guiding principles and be a completely different document than the one we have today.

We're choosing to view this review as an opportunity. It's an opportunity to improve the way we do things and the service we offer. It's an opportunity to take a close look at how we do things, and why, and determine if that's still the best way to do things. Times change and you have to change with them to a certain degree, and this is our chance to do so.

So enough of me rambling on, here's the article if you want to read it. Have any questions?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Finally Have Something To Put On The Wall Of My Office!

Good job to SRTC employees. We received this award at the Commute Trip Reduction annual Way To Go Awards luncheon today for achieving a 28.9% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in our daily commutes.

Also, congratulations to the Spokane County Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) office. They received the first 'Clean Air Champion' award from the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency for outstanding contributions resulting in the implementation of a clean air program, increased public understanding and/or support for clean air, or new policies to improve air quality.

The CTR office is recognized state-wide for its highly successful CTR Program which eliminates nearly 6,400 vehicle trips each day in Spokane County. In addition to conserving energy, this represents a significant air quality benefit as well as saving Spokane-area commuters millions of dollars a year in fuel costs.

Road Restrictions Go Into Effect Soon In Spokane County

I've been telling everyone for a week now that it's spring. Mostly they respond by laughing at me, but this confirms it; Spokane County announced today that seasonal weight restrictions will begin within the next couple weeks on county roads.

The presence of water in the roadway structure due to spring thaw threatens to destroy the pavement if it is heavily loaded in this saturated condition. Weight restrictions reduce the need for increased road maintenance and auto repairs later this year.

Seasonal road restrictions are usually in effect for approximately 6 weeks. Effected roads are posted with signs indicating maximum allowable weights. Typically, these restrictions do not apply to the average car or pickup truck. However, commercial and construction vehicles may need to lighten their loads in order to comply with the restrictions.

Senate To Vote Thursday On Two Year Transportation Bill MAP-21

The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow, Thursday, on the first of two procedural votes on MAP-21, the two-year, $109 billion transportation bill, according to Transportation Issues Daily.. It is anticipated that the Senate will clear the sixty-vote threshold on that vote, as well as the second vote which is likely to occur on Monday and Transportation Issues Daily says passage of the bill is likely but not a given.

Also next week, the House is scheduled to debate and vote on the American Energy and Infrastructure Act, a five-year, $206 billion proposal. Here's what comes next..

Traffic In Downtown Milan Drops As City Starts Charging To Get Cars Into Downtown Area

Say you worked in downtown Spokane but the City started charging about $5 per day just to get into the downtown area? What would you do? Start riding your bike? Walk? Ride the bus? Drive to a parking lot just outside of downtown then walk or ride the bus the rest of the way?

That's what's happening in Milan, Italy where officials are experimenting with 'congestion charging.' From 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every weekday, you are required to pay about $7.50 just to get your car into the central city zone. And that doesn't include parking fees.

During the first week the new charges were implemented incoming traffic was reduced by 37% compared to the previous week, reducing harmful emissions and traffic congestion.

Here's what the money collected will go to, and other cities that are doing congestion charging.

California Dept. of Resources Officials Say We're Changing Our Oil Too Often

I've been telling my mechanic this for years, but he says it's just cause I'm cheap; California officials say you're probably changing your oil too often.

Yep, you heard me. Officials at CalRecycle; the Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery in California; say frequent oil changes do not necessarily mean better performance or longer engine life anymore, as auto technology advances now allow vehicles to go farther without maintenance.

How often do you change your oil? Every 3,000 miles? Toyota now recommends an oil change every 5,000 miles for a 2005 Tacoma pickup, while General Motors suggests a 7,500-mile interval for its 2007 Chevrolet Malibu. Sweet, this is going to cut down on my maintenance bill!

So why does it matter? If Californians changed motor oil according to manufacturer specifications, oil consumption in California would shrink by 10 million gallons per year, according to CalRecycle. Wow, that's a big difference. Here's the rest of the story from the Orange County register.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Proposed Fee Increases Include 80% Increase For Driver's Licenses

It could soon cost you a lot more to get your drivers license renewed. Washington State's Senate Transportation Committee yesterday passed some proposed fee increases to raise money for road repairs and other transportation needs.

The fee increases, including an 80%(!) hike for driver's licenses, would raise an estimated $52 million next year and an average of $80 million each year over the next decade.

Other proposed fee increases include those for car dealership licenses, replacement motorcycle license plates, copies of drivers' records, and incresing the cost of a title application from $5 to $12.50.

The Seattle Times has more information on these proposed fees.

Cartographer Maps Bike And Cupcake Shop Locations

You may have heard of the concept of a 'food desert' recently through work the Spokane Regional Health District is doing to provide healthy food options to the less fortunate. A food desert is considered a region or neighborhood where residents have to travel more than a mile to buy groceries. Population density and income levels also play a factor in defining food deserts. The West Central neighborhood in Spokane is considered a food desert.

While food deserts are a serious issues, a Washington, D.C. cartographer is having fun with the concept by building a map of D.C. area 'bike and cupcake shop deserts,' as seen in the map.

M.V. Jantzen says it started out as a more serious project but making light of it was a good way to show the community how new technology and mapping can play a big role in transportation and infrastructure planning.

It is a cool concept. You can play with it here to see what he's done. And Mr. Jantzen wasn't joking, some areas have a glut of cupcake shops while others are cupcake deprived.

Monday, February 6, 2012

City Of Spokane Creates New Opportunity To Talk With/Question City Councilmembers

Get your thoughts and comments together because the Spokane City Council is debuting a new monthly public forum opportunity next week called “Talk About Town.”

Council President Ben Stuckart promised during his campaign for office to hold public forum opportunities outside of regular City Council meetings where both the media and citizens could ask questions of elected leaders and have a dialogue.

The first “Talk About Town” is Thursday, Feb. 16 at Browne Elementary School, 5102 N. Driscoll Blvd. from 7-8 p.m.

In addition to Council President Stuckart, confirmed attendees at the session include Council Members Michael Allen, Nancy McLaughlin, and Steve Salvatori. The forum will be conducted in a news conference format with everyone encouraged to attend.

There will be a different date, time and location for “Talk About Town” each month.

Letter Writer Says Spokane Should Enforce Parking Laws

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
Enforce parking laws

Regarding the Jan. 23 article “City faces slippery, uphill battle” about the problems of parked cars on the streets in the way of snowplows. There should be a year-round enforcement. Spokane is a city of junk cars on the streets.

In my neighborhood, there are dozens of cars that haven’t been driven or moved in months. I sent two emails to our former mayor about this, suggesting that enforcing the laws already on the books might generate revenue to pay for sweeping the streets more than once a year. By mid-September, my neighborhood had not been swept, leaving gravel on the street from the previous winter. She didn’t bother to respond, so I responded by not voting for her.

I’ve been in cities that strictly enforce parking rules. My mother’s neighborhood in Fountain Valley, Calif., has signs saying when the streets are swept, and parked cars will be ticketed. I saw a cop car behind the sweeper. Cars are ticketed facing the wrong direction. Maybe we should enforce our parking laws, and raise some revenue too.

Richard Trerise

A good idea or overkill in your opinion?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Committee Spends 18 Hours Marking Up Proposed Transportation & Infrastructure Bill

Holy cow, I'd never make it in the political world; I just need my sleep too badly. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee set a record with a nearly 18-hour markup of the proposed energy-infrastructure package yesterday. The session started Thursday at 9 a.m. and finished Friday just before 2:50 a.m. I'd been in bed for almost five hours by the time they wrapped up!

Around 100 amendments were debated, including letting states increase the Interstate truck weight and size limits and restoring funds to the Transportation Enhancement and Safe Routes to School programs.

Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) even called it the worst day of her life and the worst bill she's ever seen. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood apparently agrees, according to this article in Politico, as do several other representatives.

Letter Writer Says Sidewalk Shoveling Laws Should Be Enforced

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
Snow build-up violates law

It’s a federal, state and city law. Sidewalks must be cleared of snow to allow pedestrians to safely walk. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, sidewalks must be ADA accessible, and clear of snow.
Washington state law requires property owners to remove snow from sidewalks in a timely manner. Spokane City Code mandates owners to clear snow in front of their property within 24 hours of a snow storm. With multiple levels of law mandating snow removal from sidewalks, why is it that a man in a wheelchair or a mother pushing a stroller is forced to walk in the street?

The simple reason is because these rules, although they exist, are not enforced. Yes, clearing sidewalks is the responsibility of Spokane citizens, yet, on the same hand, laws are only effective when they are enforced, and that responsibility falls to the city.
Do a mother and child need to be killed after being forced to walk in the street because the sidewalk is piled 3 feet high with snow from the plowed roads, for the city to take action? Snow removal should not only be to the benefit to motorist, but also to pedestrians.

Danielle Taylor

I of course agree that sidewalks should be cleared but don't see how we can afford to pay for enforcement in the current economic atmosphere. Anyone have any ideas?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

SRTC Board February Meeting Agenda Available

SRTC's February Board meeting is next Thursday, Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. The agenda is here. Look it over and feel free to attend if anything jumps out at you. All Board meetings are held in SRTC's conference room at 221 W. First Ave. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Spirit Airlines; Ray LaHood Go Head To Head On Fee Issue

The Big Dude in transportation is calling out an Spirit Airlines, basically accusing them of having a bad attitude. Spirit says they're adding a $2 fee per ticket because of a new US Department of Transportation regulation that allows passengers to change flights within 24 hours of booking without paying a penalty. The airline says the regulation forces them to hold the seat for someone who may or may not want to fly, but Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the airline is just disrespecting their customers (oh no he did not!).

KXLY News has the war of words between the two. Oh, and by the way, Spirit may have started the flap by dubbing their new surcharge the "Department of Transportation Unintended Consequences Fee."

Proposed Bill Would Give WA Cities Power To Charge Own Gas Taxes

A bill expected to go to a hearing of the state Transportation Committee today would give Washington cities the power to charge their own gas taxes and increase car-tab collections.

Senate Bill 4306 would amend existing law to allow cities to enact a local gas tax of one. The tax would have to be approved in a ballot measure by city voters. Also under the bill, cities and counties could add a 1 percent motor-vehicle excise tax, or $100 on a $10,000 vehicle per year, with voter approval.

I haven't heard anything yet on if the Committee has already had the hearing, but will post an update when I do. In the meantime, the Seattle Times has the whole story.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sprague Ave. Reconstruction Project Open House

Spokane Valley is giving you a second chance to get educated on Sprague Avenue Reconstruction Project.

Public Works Staff will host a second public workshop to review preliminary plans and share your questions, input and concerns about the project. The workshop is Wednesday, February 15 from 6:30pm-8:00pm at Veradale United Church of Christ at 611 N. Progress Road.

The project to reconstruct Sprague between Evergreen and Sullivan is expected to take about ten to twelve weeks to complete during the summer of 2012. While the project is under way, there will be temporary lane closures as well as closures of some driveways.

Because maintaining access to businesses and residences while the project is under way is a priority, project coordinators are hoping community members and business representatives will attend the Open House to review proposed traffic routing and provide information that will help as they finalize plans.

Driving and Facebooking?

And another Facebook story (see below). At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Mercedes-Benz USA unveiled an in-dashboard service that enables the use of Facebook, Yelp, and Google behind the wheel.

Really?? Behind the wheel? Um, isn't that kind of distracting?
The DC Streets Blog says yes, and 'dislike.'

Facebook Changes The Biking Culture In San Francisco

Facebook has been credited with bringing old friends together, keeping families in touch, helping single people find mates, connecting folks with jobs and a slew of other things. And now they're being being credited with helping to change the bike culture in San Francisco.

The internet giant is moving from Palo Alto, CA to the Menlo Park area of San Francisco. They're not just moving into a building and calling it good though, they're also improving access to that building. Facebook has agreed to a list of bicycle improvements, including

•Pay to extend the San Francisco Bay Trail by creating a connection from the San Francisquito Trail in East Palo Alto to the Dumbarton / Bayfront Trail, which in turn connects directly to Facebook’s new campus on Hacker Way (nee Network Circle).

•Pay to restripe the bike lanes on Willow Road from Newbridge Street (north of Highway 101) to Facebook’s entrance on Bayfront Expressway.

•An old, decrepit pedestrian tunnel from Facebook underneath Bayfront will be cleaned up and re-opened later this year.

•Facebook has started a campus bike share in Menlo Park, which has already exceeded their wildest expectations and

• plans a staffed on-campus bike shop.

And, just to throw down the gauntlet, the folks at Facebook also challenged other large Silicon Valley corporations to join them in funding the missing sections of the San Francisco Bay Trail. Here's more from Cyclicious.

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.