Thursday, June 28, 2012

City 6 Year Street Program Approved

The City's 2013-2018 Comprehensive Street Program was passed unanimously by Spokane City Council this past Monday. And as Councilmember Jon Snyder blogs, there were some cool new projects added to the program this year, many funded by a large number of state grants!

Mr. Snyder lists some of the types of projects you'll see coming up and includes a list of projects and the program itself.

Agreement Reached On Federal Transportation Bill

Congress has reached an agreement on a transportation bill for the first time since 2005, averting another extention of the SAFETEA-LU bill or the possible shutdown of the U.S. Department of Tranpsortation.

The conference committee bill, which would maintain spending at the current level of about $54 billion a year, is set to come up for a ratification vote in both chambers this week. Indepth details will supposedly not be available until later tonight, early information claims the new bill will streamline the federal system that's been called 'a cumbersome bureaucracy that has smothered state transportation projects.'

And Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), says about it, “We speed up project delivery, cut red tape and do it without jeopardizing environmental laws. For the first time, we send half of the funds for bike paths and pedestrian walkways directly to local entities, and we protect those funds while giving states more flexibility on their share.”

The bill also allegedly provides greater incentives for corporations to partner with government to invest in public-private partnerships.Here are more details form Politico.

Fourth of July Holiday Closures

The Fourth of July holiday falling in the middle of the week this year is making for some strange schedules.

All government offices, including SRTC, will be closed next Wednesday, July 4, reopening at the regular time on Thursday, July 5.

Parking meters don't have to be plugged on July 4 and the Spokane City Council briefing meeting for the week of July 4 has been cancelled due to a lack of a quorum.
In addition, there will be a brief break in blogging after today until Thursday, July 5 as the boss is cutting me loose for a couple days of rest and relaxation (my vacations never actually end up being like that but I like to pretend). So have a great holiday and check back next Thursday for the latest in transportation happening.

Gubernatorial Candidates Answer Transportation Questions

Whoever is elected Governor of Washington state this November faces a huge number of daunting issues, without even dealing with transportation. Throw the issues of transportation funding and policy in on top of that though, and someone is going to have their hands full.

And while we've heard a lot about education, jobs, and health care issues from the two main candidates,  Jay Inslee (D) and Rob McKenna (R), the two haven't said much about how we get around in this state.

Wanting to give the topic of transportation equal time, Transportation Issues Daily presented the candidates with 12 transportation questions. Read their answers by clicking the link. I find it interesting that the answers to several of the questions relate back to freight mobility, which we didn't put much emphasis on in the way of transportation until the past couple years.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm Almost Afraid To See Where It Will Take Me

Nicole Hensley, web producer for KXLY News, tweeted this picture via Twitter today, with the caption: “According to this north #Spokane sign, take a left for the future.”

Transportation & Student Loans In One Federal Bill?

What do transportation and student loans have in common? Nothing, you would think, but sources say the two topics may be combined into one federal bill and passed together as a package.

Legislation on both items has been stalled for a while now, with the ninth extention of the federal Transportation Bill, SAFETEA-LU, expiring Friday and student loan interest rates doubling to 6.8% on July 1 unless Congress acts. And a deal could come as early as today, according to Bloomberg Business Week.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Constitutes A Good Or Bad Parent On The Road?

Motorized vehicles are the number one killer of young people aged 5-34. And despite the outcry and all the efforts to make vehicles safer, the access to cell phone cameras and video suggest that America's roads are more dangerous than ever for our children. And while many of the poor choices America makes involving children may be extreme (strapping a gas can in a child seat while the actual child sits next to it, not buckeled in, etc.) some other choices that appear to be for the best of the children (moving to the suburbs to put them in better schools, driving them to school instead of making them walk) could end up being just as harmful in the long run.

DC Streetblog asks what makes you a 'good' parent? How many miles you put on your car shuttling the children, the vehicle you drive, or something else? It's an interesting premise, that we can actually keep our kids safer by possibly keeping them out of cars more often.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Countdown Is On: Fed Transpo Bill Expires Friday

Start the countdown. The extention of the federal transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, expires this Friday at midnight. At this point, it's anyone's guess what will happen to fix this. It originally looked like another extention would be required, but Transportation Issues Daily is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Boehner were optimistic at the end of last week that a bill could be passed before July 1.

It sounds like nearly all transportation-related issues are resolved, but details haven't been released. There are rumors the mega-projects program (PNRS) and other freight provisions will be scrapped. There's also a rumored deal involving keeping the Keystone XL provision in exchange for keeping the Senate's project streamlining provisions.

We'll monitor events in Congress this week and keep you updated.

Spokane Summer Parkways Event

I was out of town last week so wasn't able to take part in the second Spokane Summer Parkways event of this year, but Ryan and Anna in our office held down the fort and attended the event to talk to participants about Horizon 2040, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan we are in the process of developing.

Ryan said it was a great event, with lots of people taking advantage of the closed roads to bike, skate, skateboard and do other events, and he said there were lots of vendors and fun activities. He said the SRTC table was near the face painting, and while he was tempted to have his face painted, he managed to resist the temptation.

These are a couple pictures he took. I'm loving Mountain Gear's giant Jenga game and am trying to come up wtih some kind of visual transportation game we could play at future events. Any ideas?

Shallow Gas Line Delays Sprague Project

Crews reconstructing Sprague Avenue between Evergreen Road and Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley encountered an unexpected situation that will change the order of the construction phases and extend the project's completion date from mid-August to late August.

Crews uncovered a natural gas line that was too shallowly buried, leaving it vulnerable to damage that could result in a leak or rupture of the line. The City is collaborating with Avista to have the line relocated to the appropriate depth before proceeding with paving,

To allow for that work to be completed, and to complete the project as soon as possible, the order of the last two phases of construction on this project is being reversed. The south side of Sprague between the 14900 block and Evergreen will be reconstructed between mid-July and early August. Construction on the north side of that same stretch is expected to start around early August, with the entire project wrapping up in late August.

Snoqualmie Lane Changes

Starting today, westbound I-90 traffic at Snoqualmie Pass will be shifted near the snowshed, four miles east of Hyak. One westbound lane will continue through the shed, and the other westbound lane will shift left, just outside the shed. Two lanes eastbound will remain open, with a slight traffic shift. This is expected to cause minor traffic delays with narrow shoulders and reduced speeds through the work zone. Crews will shift both lanes of traffic back under the snowshed in the fall.

Also, I-90 will be closed in both directions from Hyak (milepost 54) to the Price Creek Sno-Park (milepost 61) from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, June 27, and Thursday, June 28 for blasting.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

And I'm Outta Here

Start the countdown. I'm out of here on a short vacation in T-minus two minutes. That means no blog posts until next week. If all goes as planned, I'll be back blogging on Monday.

Red Light Camera Dollars Approved For Safety Projects

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously last night to approve a contract to construct neighborhood traffic calming projects funded by money collected through the City’s Red Light Camera program. Eight traffic calming projects in eight neighborhoods will be constructed later this year for $285,000.

 In 2010, neighborhoods were asked to submit recommendations for locations that they identified as potentially dangerous due to high-volume or high-speed traffic. The neighborhoods were also asked to identify potential solutions for traffic calming. Since those applications were received, they have been approved by Council and designed by the City’s Engineering Services Department.

The fully designed projects were sent out to bid early this year, with the final contract approval by the City Council Monday. The projects include:

  • Logan neighborhood - bike and parking lanes on Illinois.
  • Minnehaha neighborhood - sidewalks on Myrtle.
  • Cliff/Cannon neighborhood - sidewalk bumpouts on Maple/Ash between 8th and 9th avenues.
  • East Central neighborhood - curve sequence lights on Thor and Hartson.
  • Lincoln Heights neighborhood - sidewalk bumpouts at 17th and Mt. Vernon.
  • Emerson Garfield neighborhood - sidewalks on Post.
  • Five Mile neighborhood - sidewalks on Five Mile Rd.
  • North Hill neighborhood - sidewalks on Courtland.
The City’s Red Light Camera program was launched in November 2008. Currently, there are 15 cameras monitoring 10 intersections throughout the City. One camera can cover up to four lanes of travel in one direction.

North Spokane Corridor Receives $10M Grant

It's official- the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) project has received another $10 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funds to continue work on the freeway in the vicinity of Hillyard.
The federal grant will pay for realignment of mainline and spur tracks of the BNSF Railway line in the vicinity of Francis Avenue and Hillyard and a one-mile extension into Hillyard of a pedestrian and bicycle trail that is part of the freeway project.

This is the second TIGER grant the NSC has received in recent years. The Spokesman-Review has the details.

Coal Trains- What's Really Happening Locally?

Spokane's City Council unanimously approved a resolution last night requesting further study of the effects of coal train travel through the City of Spokane.

Spokane County is the major rail crossroad in the Inland Northwest and is the entry point for all coal coming into Washington from Montana and Wyoming. Claims are that up to 80 additional trains per day could soon start coming through the area carrying coal. Spokane already has, and always has had, a significant number of trains carrying coal pass through on a daily basis.

Between 50 and 70 trains pass through our region every day, carrying all kinds of cargo. This issue has been discussed as part of the Inland Pacific Hub (IPH) project and here is what we found out during the course of that study: 
  • According to this working paper from the IPH, the capacity of the two Class I lines through our area is 78 trains per day, which is at capacity on the UP line and nearing capacity on the BNSF line (page 89). That means the lines couldn't physically carry another 80 trains.
  • Coal is by far the largest commodity passing through our region already (page 93) of the report above. A discussion about the volume (tonnage) and value that just passes through our area begins on page 9 of this report. Coal is again mentioned on page 16.
  • 52.6% of all freight by volume (tonnage) just passes through our region, meaning Spokane or outlying areas is not it's final destination. 54.1% of the freight by value is through traffic. Rail carries 42.8% of the total freight by volume and 20.3% by value. 81.5% of rail freight is through traffic.
  • In reality, about 5 million more tons of coal is through traffic but it is listed as inbound or outbound on the waybills. Therefore, the through traffic on rail is actually much larger, closer to 89% of all freight via the railroads.
To help put all that into perspective (I know, it's a lot of percentages and numbers) here is a good comparison between the capacity, fuel efficiency, emissions and safety of several shipping modes, as coal has to reach its destination through some mode of transportation.

So, according to all the statistics we have, it's not very likely we will have 80 additional coal trains traversing our area anytime soon. While some of these reports are from 2007, SRTC staff has been keeping an eye on information out of the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the numbers still align closely.  Spokane is identified in five of WSDOT’s Freight Plans as bottlenecks.

WSDOT forecasts an increase in capacity by 2028 but it still wouldn’t be enough to accommodate 80 more trains a day. There's also the factor that UP/BNSF’s clear priority for investment is in the Southwest at this time, not our area. 

Until this is all figured out though, City Council is concerned about public safety and the impacts on the quality of life that could be caused by more trains. Specific concerns include increased exposure to diesel particulate emissions, noise pollution, coal dust, delays in vehicular traffic, as well as potential delays in emergency medical transport.
The resolution they passed requests that the potential impacts of the trains to Spokane’s public health, safety, economy, traffic, and air quality be included as a part of the project’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and that a hearing be scheduled in Spokane pertaining to any project in the Northwest that may cause significant increases in rail traffic traveling through Spokane. We'll continue to follow this issue and keep you updated.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting Agenda

Has it been a month already? The agenda and packet for the June 25 Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting is now available for your perusing pleasure
Click here to read it then feel free to attend the meeting, it's open to everyone.

Here We Go Again

It seems like Congress just extended the federal transportation bill, Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), but Transportation Issues Daily says that there are only about six legislative days in which to pass a new bill or start drafting another extention, as the current extention expires June 30.

The prevailing thought is that an extention is probably what will happen, rather than a new bill. Senator Boxer maintains that as much as 80% of the bill is worked out but there are big unresolved differences such as environmental streamlining and Keystone XL.

The question now is apparently the length of the extension. There is apparently the risk of a gamble that would cause the US Department of Transportation to shut down for a time. Anyway, read the story at the link ahead to see all the variables involved in getting either a new bill or an extention passed.

Come Visit SRTC At Spokane Summer Parkways On Wednesday

The weather is supposed to get better and better this week, with temps in the 70s and sunny by Wednesday. By then, you'll be looking for a reason to get outside and get some exercise. So here's what you're going to do; come visit SRTC at the Spokane Summer Parkways that night from 6-9 p.m. in the Comstock/Manito neighborhood.

Spokane Summer Parkways is an event where neighborhood streets are closed down to vehicles and opened to people-powered transportation and recreation. A lot of people ride the four mile course on bicycles, but people also walk, skateboard, roller skate and unicycle. The focus is on recreation, fitness, and community so there are also events going on all over the course such as yoga, Zumba, hula hooping, dancing, self defense classes and demonstrations, music, chalk art, bubbles, barbecues, etc.
SRTC will be there talking to people about their transportation thoughts and experiences to get some ideas for Horizon 2040, our Metropolitan Transportation Plan. Horizon 2040 will be a long term plan on how our local transportation system will be developed through the year 2040. To develop this plan though, we need your thoughts on what you would like to see in our future as far as transportation. At the last Summer Parkways event, I talked to people who wanted to see extended public transit service, bicycle education for college students, more visible crosswalks and car share programs. Come tell us what your vision for the future is though.
We're not sure yet where along the route we'll be, but here's a map of the event course and some information on Spokane Summer Parkways:

New Spokane Valley Trail

Spokane County commissioners have paved the way for a new multiple-use trail on former railroad property in Spokane Valley, the new port-of-entry station along Interstate 90 west of Stateline is now open and work on the new Havana Street bridge is almost complete. Plus more in this week's Spokesman-Review "Getting There" column

Start Date For Evergreen Road Project Changed

The start of construction for the Spokane Valley project to reconstruct Evergreen Road between 16th Avenue 32nd Avenue has been rescheduled to Thursday, June 21. Traffic impacts include:

• Evergreen from just south of 16th to 24th will be closed with local access only.

• 16th will remain open.

• 20th will be closed with local traffic only.

• Traffic will be rerouted via 24th, Blake/Saltese, McDonald, and 16th.

• 24th will remain open with lanes narrowed in each direction.

Hoopfest DUI Patrols June 29 & 30

Local DUI patrols will be held June 29 and 30th in conjunction with Hoopfest. The purpose of the patrols is to get impaired drivers off the roads and make Hoopfest a safe family event for everyone. The patrols are funded by a grant from Washington Traffic Safety Commission and supported by the Spokane County Target Zero Task Force.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Valley Police Department, Spokane Police Department, Cheney Police Department, EWU Police Department, Washington State Patrol, City of Airway Heights Police Department and the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office will be participating in the extra emphasis patrols.

In Spokane County, 47% (69 of 147) of all traffic deaths from 2006 through 2010 involved an alcohol or drug-impaired motor vehicle driver. Over a third of all persons who died were ages 16 to 25. Males accounted for 73% of motor vehicle deaths involving an impaired driver in Spokane County. Over half of impaired driver-involved deaths were from crashes that occurred from 3:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 a.m. Sunday.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New WSDOT Construction Alerts for Next Week

I-90 Eastbound/Vicinity of Altamont Street- On Thursday, June 21, beginning at 9 a.m. until as late as 3 p.m., the eastbound Altamont on ramp will be closed to replace a light pole. Drivers on Third will be re-routed to the Freya eastbound on-ramp. Possible slow traffic and congestion.

I-90/Geiger Blvd. to Downtown Spokane- This weekend, June 16-17, eastbound drivers should be alert for daytime lane restrictions needed for concrete curing. At times, the center lane may be closed. Two through lanes will be open during daytime hours.

Proposed Amendment to the Transportation Improvement Program

We're proposing an amendment to the 2012-2015 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and giving you a chance to comment on the proposed changes. The TIP is a programming document that identifies specific projects proposed to be undertaken during the upcoming four years. The proposed amendment includes the following projects:

City of Spokane: Citywide Heat Applied Thermoplastic Pedestrian Crosswalk Markings, Downtown Spokane Pedestrian Countdown Timer Signalized Intersection Modifications, Hamilton St./Nevada St. Pedestrian Countdown Timers - Sharp to Wellesley, and High Dr. & 29th Ave Congestion Mitigation Study and Design.

Spokane Transit Authority: Implementation of CAD/AVL for Real-Time Bus Information.

City of Spokane Valley: Wellesley/Adams Sidewalk Project, Argonne Rd Safety Improvements - Empire to Knox, Argonne/Mullan Corridor Safety Improvements - Indiana to Broadway, Citywide Safety Improvements, Mansfield Ave Connection, SR27 (Pines Road) and Grace Avenue.

All the details of the amendment can be found on the home page at or a hardcopy can be received by calling (509) 343-6370. The comment period starts June 15, 2012 and all comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on June 28, 2012 by emailing to, mailing to SRTC at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA, or by calling (509) 343-6370.

Iowa Rest Stops Seeking Corporate Sponsors

The next time you stop at a rest area in Iowa, you could be greeted by signs welcoming you on behalf of a major corporate advertiser.
Just as baseball and football stadiums are selling corporate naming rights, the Iowa Department of Transportation is seeking competitive bids on sponsorship rights for its rest areas, in an effort to help fund the interstate rest area system..

What kind of company would sponsor a rest stop though? Iowa officials say potential sponsors could include tourist attractions, truck stops, casinos, convenience stores, auto insurance firms, and other businesses that would benefit. They also admit though that there is a potential for problems if controversial sponsors win the bidding.

The Des Moines Register has all the details.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NSC Opening Ceremony

The boss man attended the opening of the latest stretch of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) this afternoon and took these pictures, at my request. He said, despite the absolute deluge of rain, they were nice and dry under one of the new underpasses.

He said there was a big crowd, about 150 people, and the highlight was the kids on old fashioned pedal cars who rode them on the new stretch of roadway, and hope to be able to drive on the completed freeway when they turn 16.

So this is what you've been waiting for. Crews were opening up the rest of the freeway this afternoon and it should be ready now for general traffic so try it out on your way home, if you live that direction.

Transportation Issues Discussed In Gubernatorial Debate

Unfortunately, the issue of transportation only came up twice in yesterday's big Gubernatorial debate between Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna that was held right here in Spokane. Fortunately, Larry Ehl of Transportation Issues Daily was at the debate and has the transcription of the two transportation questions and the candidate's answers, so you don't have to dig through an entire hour long video to get them. Here are the transcripts.

Seatbelt Emphasis Patrol Nets Lots of Offenders

Between May 21st and June 3rd extra law enforcement patrolled Spokane County roads at night looking for unbuckled drivers. And they found a lot of them; 247 seat belt tickets were written, in addition to 5 DUIs, 8 felony and 5 misdemeanor warrant arrests, 66 speeding, 24 moving, 25 non-moving, 16 equipment and 54 cell phone/texting violations, 22 child passenger safety infractions, as well as, 46 uninsured motorists and 31 suspended/revoked license violations.

Ten years ago, during June 2002, the Washington Legislature passed a bill changing the seat belt law from a secondary to a primary law, meaning that law enforcement officers could issue a seat belt ticket when there was no other citable traffic infraction. That year, the seat belt use rate in Washington jumped 10 points from 82.6 to 92.6 percent.

During the past ten years, traffic deaths on Washington roadways are down 29 percent and serious injuries are down 28 percent, while vehicle-miles traveled increased 6.6 percent over this same period. (Source: FARS, WSDOT)

Studies show seat belt use decreased the chance of dying in a crash by 60 percent and reduces the risk of head injury by 80 percent.

What's Considered Too Stoned To Drive?

Everyone knows that .08 is the blood-alcoholo level where you're considered to be legally intoxicated, but what is the level with marijuana where you're considered to be impaired? And who should determine that? A jury? Apparently there isn't a set level that indicates impairment when using marijuana, which has led to a hung trial twice now in a case where a Deer Park man hit and killed a woman riding a scooter. Prosecutors say the defendant was driving under the influence, but his defense attorney says sheriff's deputies at the scene didn't notice any signs of impairment. So the question stands, when are you too stoned to drive?  The Spokesman-Review has the story.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

KKK Told They Can't Adopt Stretch Of Highway

The Georgia Department of Transportation will not approve the application of a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to "adopt" a one-mile stretch of highway in North Georgia, a state official said today.

KKK officials haven't commented on the decision, but have said in the past, "All we want to do is adopt a highway," April Chambers, the chapter's secretary, said Monday. "We're not doing it for publicity. We're doing it to keep the mountains beautiful. People throwing trash out on the side of the road ... that ain't right."

Website Aims To Stop Street Harassment

Has this happened to you? You're walking downtown, or anywhere else, minding your own business and someone either drives by and yells, "Hey baby!!" or someone on the sidewalk makes a lewd gesture to you?  If you're a man, it's probably never happened to you. But as a woman who walks in the downtown area often,  I have had this, and a lot worse things, happen often. 

While most of it is harmless (a homeless person telling me I look hot in my dress or men offering me rides while I wait for the bus) I have also had a group of young men follow me for blocks yelling inappropriate things and a transient expose himself to me.

Besides being irritating and in some cases scary, street harassment limits people's mobility and access to public spaces. It is a form of gender violence and makes our downtown and other areas less inviting and therefore less vibrant.
I just found out though that there's a resource trying to put an end to this kind of harrasment. It's a website called and it has some interesting content, such as responses you can use if harassed, some creative ways people have fought back against harassment on the street, tips for talking to boys to emphasize why some language is considered harassment, and tips on why things men say that they feel is a compliment can make women uncomfortable.

A warning; there are a couple uses of explicit language on the website. And I want the t-shirt in one picture that says "My name is not Baby."

Valley's Transportation Improvement Program To Focus On Road Preservation

Members of the public will be able to comment on Spokane Valley's six-year Transportation Improvement Program at tonight's City Council meeting but council members want people to know most of the work is going to center around road-preservation rather than brand-new capital projects.

That’s because city staff – due to council direction earlier in the year – is attempting to fulfill a mandate to set money aside to improve and maintain existing city roadways. That means less of an emphasis on adding sidewalks or bike lanes or other projects that add capacity.
The Spokane Valley News Herald has the details.

Cargo Pilot Allegedly Drunk When He Landed In Spokane

According to a Spokesman-Review article a commercial cargo pilot was drunk when he landed a plane at the Spokane International Airport in April, federal prosecutors allege.

Paul Robbin Roessler, of Federal Way, is to appear in U.S. District Court in Spokane on June 29 on a charge of operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The charge alleges Roessler flew a twin-engine PA-34 aircraft  from Boeing Field in Seattle to the Spokane airport while drunk on April 26.
A federal grand jury indicted him last week, but it’s unclear what prompted authorities to open an investigation.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Recycled Bus

My sister-in-law who works downtown sent me this picture, with this message: "This very stylish and eco-cycled school bus-to-homemade RV is parked outside my building right now. Notice the cedar shake siding and the residential housing windows. Best example of reduce/reuse/recycle I've seen in a while, but probably not so fuel efficient."

My question was how many parking meter spots is that thing taking up and did they pay for all the spots?

Vintage Trains To Visit Spokane

Mark your calendars train enthusiasts; Union Pacific is proud to celebrate its 150th Anniversary in Spokane, on July 11, at the Spokane Amtrak Depot at 221 West 1st Ave.

The railroad’s Streamliner E9s and The Promontory museum car will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “The Promontory” is a traveling museum that allows visitors to interact with railroad history via a 65-inch touch video screen highlighting many of the 27 communities the car will be visiting in 2012.

The Spokane celebration is part of a UP anniversary tour; other stops include Boise and Pocatello, Idaho, and Eugene and Portland, Ore.

Construction Underway On Bike/Ped Bridge Near GU

After nearly a decade and a half of planning, construction has begun on a project to convert an old railroad bridge near Gonzaga University into a path for trail users.

Iron Bridge will provide pedestrian and bicycle bridge access to the Centennial Trail across the Spokane River from the Iron Bridge Office Park on Trent Avenue. The Spokesman-Review has the details.

Gas Prices Around WA

The AAA auto club reports the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas in Washington is $4.16!

That’s down 12 cents in a week and is 62 cents higher than the national average.

The AAA survey shows these gas prices from around the state:

Bellingham $4.31
Bremerton $4.13
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett $4.22
Tacoma $4.14
Olympia $4.15
Vancouver $4.12
Yakima $4.17
Tri-Cities $4.09
Spokane $3.93.

Friday, June 8, 2012

SRTC Board Meeting Agenda

The next SRTC Board meeting is next Thursday, June 14 here at the SRTC office.
Here is the agenda. As always, everyone is welcome so come by if you can.

Smooth Riding On New Complete Street

Have you ever been the first to do something? What a feeling! Well, Bike to Work Barb over at
Bikestyle was the first to ride on the new Martin Luther King Way through the University District, and she takes us for a tour of Spokane's newest complete street here.

Construction Update forWeek of June 11

  • ElkFest will take place this Friday, through Sunday, June 8 to 10, in Browne’s Addition. Cannon St. from Pacific to First avenues will be closed.
  • The Spring Flake Suede Swamp Stomp and Bike Swap Meet takes place Saturday, June 9, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fifth Ave. from Oak to Cannon streets and Elm St. from Fourth to Fifth avenues will be closed for the car show and bike swap.
  • The 21st Annual LGBTQA Pride Parade and Rainbow Festival, sponsored by OutSpokane, will take place from noon until 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 9. The parade begins at noon; the route begins at Wall St. and Main Ave.; marchers will travel along Main Ave. until they reach Stevens St., and then follow Stevens St. to Riverside Ave., turning onto Riverside Ave. traveling to Post St., back onto Main Ave. to Howard St., onto Howard St. and end at Riverfront Park. Motorists are asked to drive with caution as parade marchers are on the street
  • The Cruizin’ for Kids Car and Motorcycle Show to benefit the Starlight Children’s Foundation takes place this Sunday, June 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Garland Ave. from Monroe to Lincoln streets will be closed to accommodate the event which includes live music, children’s play area, and vendors.

  • Friday, June 8th, from 7 a.m. until as late as Noon, northbound Division Street traffic is diverted onto Wandermere Road between Farwell and the Hatch Road Interchange. This detour will be in place to allow the contractor to remove temporary concrete barriers, install median barriers, and apply paint striping for the new NSC Interchange. Striping work requires dry pavement and may have to be rescheduled. On Friday, June 8, depending on weather, some traffic lanes will be restricted for intersection crosswalk and turn arrow painting. On Wednesday, June 13th, late in the day or evening, the new freeway lanes will open providing a free flow, high speed connection from existing US 395 at Wandermere to the Freya Street Roundabout just north of Francis Avenue, a distance of over 5 miles. On Monday, June 11th, depending on weather, beginning at about 9 p.m., until as late as 9 p.m. on Tuesday, southbound US 395 traffic will be diverted onto Wandermere Road to allow crews to paint the concrete traffic barriers.
  • On Wednesday, June 13, beginning at 9 a.m. until as late as 3 p.m., westbound I-90 will be reduced to two through lanes in the vicinity of Freya. The right lane will be closed. Possible slow traffic and congestion.
  • On Monday, June 11 and possibly Tuesday, June 12, from about 9 p.m. until as late as 4 a.m. the following morning, the northbound and southbound NSC from Freya to Farwell will be closed for the installation of an overhead sign structure. Traffic will be detoured via Market Street. In addition, Freya remains closed to all traffic between the NSC Roundabout and Lincoln Road. The official detour for access to Fairview Road, Lincoln Road, Gerlach Road, plus businesses and residences on Freya in this area is from the north via Freya Street from Market Street. This closure may be in place until early July during construction of the second roundabout.
  • The seconf phase of the Sprague Avenue - Evergreen to Sullivan Reconstruction Project begins June 11 and continue through late June - South side of Sprague between Sullivan and 14900 block of Sprague Avenue. Sprague will be reduced to one lane each direction with a center turn lane. The south side of the Sprague/Progress intersection will be closed.
  • University Road between 4th Avenue and 16th Avenue - If weather permits, expect curb lane closures in both directions at different times around the clock through Friday, June 15 for resurfacing.
  • 8000 Block of E Riverway Avenue - Expect delays and minor congestion due to heavy equipment in the area.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Construction Starts On Missing Piece of Centennial Trail

Twenty years after the Centennial Trail first opened, work has started on a key missing piece: the two miles running west from Riverfront Park on the north bank of the Spokane River.

A $2 million state jobs grant is financing the construction through the Kendall Yards mixed-use development. A ceremony was held yesterday to mark the start of construction. The Spokesman-Review has the details.

He'll Never Live This One Down

Talk about ironic. The Idaho Statesman says a 22-year-old eastern Idaho driver was looking at a text message on his phone when he hit a sheriff deputy's parked patrol car. Police say the man was looking at a text message on his phone when he drove into the back of a patrol car parked on the side of the road.The sheriff's deputy was not in the patrol car at the time. The vehicle's lights were flashing to alert drivers to a fire in the median of the road. The driver was cited for inattentive driving. And will have to live with the harassing his buddies will give him for a very long time. Which is worse than the ticket.

Public Hearing On Infill Housing Zoning

The City of Spokane’s Plan Commission will hold a public hearing and open house on Wednesday, June 13, at 4 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, Lower Level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

The Plan Commission is working on recommended amendments to Spokane Municipal Code related to the Infill Housing Zoning Code Update Project to provide new opportunities for residential infill development. The proposals are intended to encourage ownership of housing and address ways to make infill residential development compatible with existing neighborhoods.

The Commission is seeking public input on the recommended amendments to the code at the public hearing and open house. Planning Services staff will be available before the open house, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., to answer questions.

The draft proposed amendments are available at

Why am I posting this on a transportation blog? Because where you live in relation to where you work has everything to do with transportation. When we were working on the Transportation Vision Project in 2010 and '11, a lot of the feedback received was that we need to encourage infill instead of sprawl. If people live close to where they work, they're more likely to walk, ride their bikes or the bus to commute. That translates to less vehicle miles travelled, which is one of our long-term goals at SRTC, which in turn translates to a more convenient, better-maintained transportation system to everyone. I feel like a robot sometimes when I write things like that, but it's true.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WSDOT Report Says Incident Response program making a difference

The Washington State Department of Transportation's quarterly performance report- the Gray Notebook- says timely response to highway collisions by WSDOT crews, State Patrol and emergency personnel translated into an estimated $10.7 million in savings for highway travelers so far this year.

In the first quarter of 2012 alone, the Incident Response program saved travelers and businesses money by reducing the time and gas they would have wasted stuck in traffic, while at the same time increasing highway safety. WSDOT’s Incident Response Teams (IRT) cost an estimated $1.2 million to operate per quarter, reporting a benefit-to-cost ratio of approximately 9-to-1 for the first quarter of the year.

So how many incidents did IRT respond to? What is the average time it takes them to clear an incident? And how many IRT crews are there? Here's your answers.

While Other Vehicle Fatalities Decline, Motorcycle Deaths Stay Same

While the number of all other motor vehicle fatalities declined in 2011, the number of motorcyclist deaths has remained the same as in recent years, according to a report released last week by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The report says there's five reasons for that- or five issues to focus on in driving down motorcycle deaths.

Here's what they are.

Picture Posted On FB Drawing Angry Outcry

At $4 a gallon, I can't afford to spill gas either! Replacement babies can be bought on the internet these days though. Just kidding, don't get angry. This photo, taken by a Denver police officer, shows a crazy lack of concern for this child.

The Colorado Department of Transportation posted the photo to Facebook, where it's getting a ton of outraged comments.

The officer pulled the car over for making an impropert turn and found the toddler, a 14-year-old passenger and the driver all not wearing seat belts. The driver was ticketed obviously.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sprague Ave. Swale Project Public Meeting

If you work or drive on Sprague Avenue between Park Road and the I-90 overpass, you will want to attend a community meeting on Wednesday, June 13 from 6:30-8:00 pm at Park Place Assisted Living Center. City of Spokane Valley Public Works staff will be on hand to discuss and get input on the proposed Sprague Avenue Swale Project.

Anticipated for construction during fall 2012 and/or spring 2013, the proposed project includes adding stormwater drainage swales along both sides of Sprague Avenue between Park Road and Thierman Road.
The swales would include city-maintained grasses and trees to help filter contaminants from stormwater and prevent them from entering the aquifer. In addition to upgrading sidewalk ramps for improved pedestrian access, the existing bike lane on the north side of Sprague would be upgraded.

The project also involves restriping Sprague Avenue from five lanes to four lanes to accommodate the improvements outlined above.
Input from the community is needed to help evaluate modifications to driveway approaches that may be needed for safety and to accommodate the swales, and to identify the best locations for trees in the swales. Of particular interest is information from representatives of businesses in the project area to plan for minimizing impacts and maintaining access while construction is under way.

Park Place Assisted Living is located at 511 S. Park Road in Spokane Valley. The meeting will be held in the Dining Room.

Dominoes Wants Pedestrians To Know Their Delivery Scooters Are There

Who would have thought Dominos would be worried about anything other than getting their pizzas delivered in 30 minutes or less? Apparently they are though because they've taken a creative approach to improving the safety of electric delivery scooters in the Netherlands. Because the quiet vehicles sometimes catch pedestrians unaware, with unfortunate results, the company added a quirky soundtrack to the motors.

Local Street Vacated For Traffic Calming Benefits

On his blog, Spokane City Councilmember Jon Snyder recounts how vacating a street will make it safer for buses to drop kids off at a local elementary school and how the surrounding neighborhood will receive an enormous benefit in traffic calming as a result. Here's the story.

What Constitutes A Service Animal?

What constitutes a 'service animal?' I ask because a friend recently told me about a fracas on her bus in Olympia when someone left a boa constrictor on the bus and a former bus driver has told me about struggles he's had with service animals. Everything from two service dogs on the same bus fighting to a man trying to get on the bus with a snake wrapped around his neck, which freaked the driver out.

Apparently I'm not the only one asking, because the Department of Justice is trying to define service animals and things may become more strict. The DOJ received thousands of comments about service animals last year when it announced plans to modify the definition to exclude wild animals including reptiles, rabbits, farm animals, amphibians, ferrets and rodents. The guidelines also would have eliminated as service animals those whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being.

The existing service animal law has no standards of training, requires no animal identification or certification and doesn't define what a service animal can be. But if businesses and public agencies fail to accommodate a disabled person's service animal, they sometimes are sued. The Seattle Times takes a closer look at this law that some people may be abusing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Parking Garage Converted to Community Garden

There was a discussion over on the SRTC Facebook page last week about parking lots and if they are or aren't a blight on the face of downtown Spokane. One of the participants in that discussion sent me this article on how a parking garage built for the 1962 World's Fair is now being changed into a community garden. Pretty cool stuff. Got any good ideas on a structure or area in our community you think would make a nice spot for a garden. We talked about doing a container garden on the patio at our office but somehow it never took off.

Public Transit Ridership Numbers Way Up Across the Country

Public transit had a good couple of months to start the year. Transit agencies had record or near-record ridership in the first three months of the year, thanks to high gas prices and other factors, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

34 of 37 large cities saw increases in bus ridership and cities with rail systems also saw ridership numbers go up. This U.S.A Today article has the numbers, and the explanation.

Here are some pictures from yesterday's Spokane Summer Parkways in north Spokane's Chief Garry/Logan neighborhoods. The event closes down almost four miles of neighborhood streets to vehicle traffic and opens it to non-motorized modes of transportation such as walking, bicycling, skateboarding or other fun ways to get around.

In addition, there are other activities happening at parks along the route such as yoga, demonstrations, bounce castles, barbecues and much more. I had a table set up to talk to people about our Metropolitan Tranpsortation Plan, Horizon 2040. I heard some pretty interesting stuff too. Horizon 2040 is a long-term plan for transportation for all of Spokane County for the next 20+ years. So when I was asking folks yesterday how they would like to see our tranpsortation system develop in the coming years, I heard a lot of comments about expanding the hours of public transit to later in the evening, providing transit to Post Falls or Coeur d'Alene, come up with some better north-south routes and hurry up and finish the North Spokane Corridor.

I also spoke to people about their transportation experiences in general and heard some really cool stories. One gentleman told me that he has started a car-sharing program within his family. He rides his bike most of the time for transportation but when he needs a car, he shares it with his siblings. They bought a car together and share the price of maintenance and fuel and schedule in advance when they will use it, if they know ahead of time they will need it. He said so far it has worked very well excecpt for a couple times when more than one person needed the car at the same time.

Another older gentleman told me he used to be an urban planner back in the 1960's and his first assignment was to plan emergency escape routes out of cities and to shelters in the event of a nuclear bomb attack. He said he felt at the time it was a futile effort but it was his job so he did it.

All in all I heard some great input and always enjoy taking part in the Spokane Summer Parkways events. Another one is coming up Wednesday, June 20 on the south hill. Here's information on that event. And SRTC will be at that one too, so come find us and share your thoughts for the future of transportation with us.

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.