Thursday, February 28, 2013

Know Before You Go With Traffic Info Sent Directly To Your Phone Or Computer

It's now easier to 'know before you go' by getting highway traffic information for the Spokane area and the seven-county WSDOT Eastern Region directly to your home email or your cell phone.

The team at the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) keeps an eye on traffic around the region and now, you can sign up to receive these up-to-the-minute messages about road conditions, traffic collisions, and construction to help plan your travels

To get connected, click here to set up an account for your email address or wireless phone. Once you've done that, hit the "Go" button and you'll see a full menu of all the updates you can subscribe to.

The new updates are listed under the "Eastern Traffic" section and the "Eastern" section under Construction Reports. Just select the boxes for the updates you want to receive then click on the "submit" button.

Messages are sent out as incidents occur or conditions change.

Francis Striping Monday

On Monday, March 4th, beginning at 9 a.m., crews will restripe Francis from Market Street to the vicinity of Freya. This re-striping is weather dependent. When this is complete Francis will be one lane in each direction. As a result, drivers should expect congestion and possible delays on Francis Avenue and Market Street, especially during the morning and afternoon commute hours. In addition, westbound drivers on Francis should be alert for flaggers directing traffic near the BNSF railway crossing.

This traffic configuration will be in place for several months.

Packed House For Urban Growth Area Expansion Hearing

A hearing last night on a county proposal to expand the urban growth area (UGA) was packed. There was testimony about how extending the UGA would put taxpayers at risk for the cost of extending public services. And those who said they own tracts of land that could be developed if the proposal goes through. SRTC Transportation Advisory Committee member Kitty Klitzke was at the meeting and asked County Commissioner not to extenda the UGA. The Spokesman-Review summarizes the meeting.

State Admits Mistakes On Seattle Bridge

The new 520 floating bridge in Seattle isn't even open yet and it's already requiring some fixes. A design error caused pontoons that keep the bridge afloat to crack. And that's going to add up to tens of millions of dollars in repairs- which the public will pay because the design was done by Washington State Department of Transportation engineers.

So how was a mistake like this made and what will happen to the engineers that made it? The Seattle Times has details.

Bucked Up Kids Emphasis Patrol

Local law enforcement agencies are increasing enforcement to make sure children are buckled in accordance with Washington law. Every day in the US an average of five children (age 14 and younger) are killed and 548 are injured in vehicle crashes. Child car seats reduce the risk of injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. Between 1975 and 2007, NHTSA estimates that child car seats saved the lives of 8,709 children. This emphasis patrol is just one strategy aimed at reaching Washington's goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

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

- Babies until at least age 1 and at least 20 lbs must use rear-facing seats. For best protection, leave child rear-facing until age 2 or longer.

- Keep them in a five-point harness for as long as they fit within the height and weight restrictions for the harness system.

- Children age four and older who have outgrown their five point harness remain in booster seats until 4’9” tall.

- All kids up to age 13 ride in the back seat of the vehicle where practical to do so.

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children up to age 14. Nearly 73% of car seats are not installed or used correctly and nearly half of the children under the age of 14 who were killed in crashes were completely unrestrained.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dublin Bicyclists Double In Eight Years!

Wow, what's up with the Irish? According to this Feb. 6th Irish Times article, the number of cyclists in Dublin has doubled in just eight years! Nearly one in every 10 (8.8 percent) journeys taken in the capital now is on a bike, according to data from a recent survey.

The survey also found that pedestrian traffic is up. Why the big change though? Read the article.

Could The Inland Northwest Have It's Own Inland Port?

According to "Midlands Connect," ground is being broken on a new inland port this week in Greer, South Carolina. The port will provide a place to transfer shipping containers between trucks and trains and provide a direct rail link to the Port of Charleston.

South Carolina is a long way away so why should we care? Because the aim of the local Inland Pacific Hub (IPH) project is to eventually have our own inland port. The Inland Northwest is already a hub for commerce for the region/ Because of its central location, it's perfectly positioned to be a key link to competitive commerce in the northern hemisphere. And not only do we have an ideal location, we also have the basic building blocks already in place, such as the Port of Lewiston, Spokane International Airport, an excellent system of Interstate and other highways, two Class I railroads, and an extensive network of fiber that links millions of people together technologically.

And with trade between our region and Pacific Rim countries increasing, it seems like an obvious advantage. While WSDOT led the first phase of the IPH project, and SRTC had the second phase, the initative has now morphed into a phase led by local civic, elected and business leaders to implement strategies to make a local inland port a reality.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Public Meeting For Old Trails/Inland Roads Project

Apparently I forgot to include the location for this meeting when I posted this announcement the first time, so I'm reposting: Spokane County invites you to an Open House on Monday, March 4th to review and comment on a plan to reconstruct and pave Old Trails Road and Inland roads. The project would start at the intersection of Seven Mile and Inland roads and continue two miles to the end of the existing gravel road on Old Trails Road. The proposal involves paving a two-lane roadway with six-foot wide shoulders.
Spokane County Engineering and Roads staff will be available to answer questions from 6-8 p.m. and preliminary plans for the project will be on display at the Riverside State Park Headquarters Building, located at 9711 W. Charles Road, Nine Mile Falls, WA.

Controversial Scanners Being Replaced At Sea-Tac

The controversial “backscatter’’ full-body scanners installed at Sea-Tac Airport are on their way out. Apparenlty they will be replaced by 'less invasive,' safer scanners starting in early April. The Seattle Times has the story on why the change, after just a couple years of using the scanners.

Why'd The Moose Cross The Highway? No One Knows But Canadian Researchers Hope To Find Out

So if you want to know about highway safety, who are you going to ask; an engineer or a moose? A moose apparently. Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan have been tracking moose, gathering data to learn more about their movements, especially around highways. Apparently there are some theories about why the animals are often in close proximity to highways, and the information gathered could help provide answers.

CBS News Saskatchewan has the video below.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Urban Growth Area Public Hearing This Week

A public hearing on expanding Spokane County’s Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) is scheduled for Wednesday, February 27th. The hearing will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Hearing Room on the lower level of the Public Works Building, located at 1026 W. Broadway Avenue.

The options under consideration would add nearly 6,000 acres of land for suburban-style subdivisions and 1,000 acres for commercial and industrial use. Many of the areas under consideration are currently held in parcels of 10-to-20 acres. Some of the areas under consideration are included in the proposal because the landowners requested urban designation.

The Board of County Commissioners is basing the expansion on projections that the county’s population will grow from 480,000 residents in 2013 to more than 612,000 by the year 2031.

So what's that have to do with transportation? You've got to build and maintain roads to reach subdivisions.

Is Your Soulmate Waiting For You On An STA Bus?

I'd never read the Craigslist 'Missed Connections' section until I saw this article, but you may want to check it out sometime just for the entertainment value. Missed Connections is where people post about other peopel they either saw but were too shy to talk to or maybe knew in the past but have lost touch and are looking to reconnect. It's pretty much the Craigslist version of the local Inlander's 'I Saw You' section.

Anyway, the magazine Psychology Today decided to map out where we’re missing connections most often analyzing the ads state by state. It turns out “bus” is the most frequently cited spot for missed connections in Washington and Oregon.
The Seattle PI has the story.

Mmmmm Cheese. How My Favorite Food Could Help To Keep Icy Streets Safe

Cheese may give salt a run for it's money when it comes to our favorite food to use to de-ice roads. What the... ? Yep, some local governments, concerned about the environmental threat of runoff from salt used to clear icy streets are turning to more nature-friendly substitutes such as cheese brine, sugarcane molasses and beet juice.

But how do they compare? The Great Falls Tribune takes a look.

New Highway Signs and Highway Lights

Electronic highway signs on Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 2 are getting an update this year and WSDOT is installing the first in a new generation of overhead highway lights. Here's what's happening around the region in transportation this week from the Spokesman-Review's "Getting There" column.

Report Spokane City Potholes Online Now

Attaching a picture like this won't get your pothole
filled any sooner, by the way.
If you hadn't heard already, the City of Spokane launched a new online way to report potholes last week. 

Just go to and enter information about the size and location of the pothole. You can also “pin” the location on a map and send along a photo. The reported information will go directly to the City’s Street Department to be scheduled for repair.

The service works on:

• iPhones and iPads with operating systems 5 or 6.
• Droid devices with “ice cream sandwich” or “jelly bean” using a Google Chrome browser.
• Computers with Internet Explorer or Google Chrome browsers.

A short tutorial video on how to use the website is available at

If you prefer though, you can continue to report potholes by calling the Street Department at 625-7733. Crews prioritize pothole repairs based on size and location, with the largest potholes on the busiest streets being repaired first.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Minneapolis Proposes Turning Road Into 'Greenway'

Minneapolis is considering banning cars and converting a low traffic street into a 'greenway' for bikes and pedestrians. The North Minneapolis Greenway would run more than 30 blocks north to south and homeowners along it would lose access to the street, which could cause some issues, to say the least.

Proposed State Transportation Funding Package Unveiled

House Democrats in Olympia rolled out a nearly $10 billion transportation package yesterday that would boost taxes on gasoline, increase car tabs and even charge a bicycle fee to raise money.

Overall, the package would put billions of dollars into highway projects and ferry operations and terminals.
The Seattle Times takes a close look at the proposed package.

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting Agenda

The next Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) is next Wednesday, February 27. The TTC is a group of technical staff from our member state and local jurisdictions that provides project input and helps assure a coordinated and well-considered regional transportation system. The TTC participates in SRTC's transportation planning program by conducting technical reviews of activities such as work programs and consultant contracts.

The agenda for the meeting is here. Feel free to attend.

Obama Says He Has A Plan To Fund Infrastructure Plans

There was a lot of sniping following last week's State of the Union Address that President Obama's two proposed programs to fix the nation's infrastructure are nice fairy tales but basically a pipe dream due to lack of money to fund them. Not so, says the White House. The big guy's got a plan to back up his talk.

Here's how he's hoping to fund his "Fix It First" policy and "Rebuild America Partnership."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

County Motor Vehicle Licensing Office Moving

Spokane County's Motor Vehicle and Vessel Licensing Office will be closed Friday, February 22nd and Monday, February 25th so the office can move from the north corner of the County Courthouse annex to the first floor of the Spokane County Courthouse.

This move is the third phase in the development of the “Customer Service Center” on the first floor of the Courthouse. The Assessor’s customer service personnel and the Auditor’s Recording Office moved into the customer service center during phase one and phase two.

The move is a step in the County's plan to improve customer service on the County campus by locating all  primary customer services on the first floors of Courthouse and Public Works buildings.

Transportation Plan To Be Proposed Today In Olympia

The Spokesman-Review reports that a major transportation plan to be unveiled today in Olympia will propose a 2-cent-per-year increase in the state’s gasoline tax. The budget plan, from House Transportation Committee Chairman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, will divide the money between new projects and maintenance and eventually raise the state’s gas tax by a total of 10 cents.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who has said he wants a transportation package that would build new projects and fix some of its crumbling infrastructure, declined to endorse it Tuesday, saying only it is “a good start on that discussion.”
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, called the plan a major jobs package and said the plan would set aside significant amounts for maintenance. Previous gasoline tax packages have been criticized as emphasizing new projects and not leaving enough for ongoing road repairs.

Spokane To Get Direct Airline Service To L.A.

Nonstop service to Los Angeles is returning to Spokane International Airport. Delta Air Lines officials Tuesday announced that the airline will begin direct service to LAX starting June 10. Spokane lost direct connection to Los Angeles in 2008, when ExpressJet stopped serving Spokane.

The Spokesman-Review has details on the flight.

City Hall At The Mall- Meet City of Spokane Valley Staff & Councilmembers While Shopping

Spokane Valley residents- ever wanted to meet your elected officials or City staff, ask a question or share a concern but didn't want to make a formal trip to City Hall?

Well now you can do all that while shopping at City Hall at the Mall day on Thursday, February 28 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Spokane Valley City Councilmembers and some City staff will be at the second floor Food Court of the Valley Mall to answer questions, help you report a pothole, reserve a City Park, or share information on a variety of other city services.
City staff estimates that last year's event brought them together with a couple hundred people who have otherwise never had occasion to visit City Hall. Mayor Tom Towey and other members of the City Council will be on hand at various times throughout the day visiting with community members. Specialists will also be available to answer questions about City-related concerns, share information on upcoming street projects, demonstrate use of the website to find information and file service requests, and provide general information and assistance on a wide variety of other services.

For the kids, McGruff the Crime Dog will be there and they can meet and visit with police officers and firemen. Uh... I think I can make time in my schedule to be there that day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

WA Transportation Secretary Steps Down, Gov Appoints New One

Well this came out of left field. At least for me anyway. Washington State Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond announced her retirement today and Governor Jay Inslee has already appointed someone to fill the position.

Hammond's retirement is effective March 8, after serving 34 years at the Washington State Department of Transportation. Lynn Peterson, currently an advisor to Oregon's governor, was appointed to the position.

King 5 News has more.

Thank An Engineer This Week

My apologies to my engineer friends; with yesterday being Presidents' Day, I missed marking the start to National Engineers Week. Coincidence that they fall in the same week? I think not.

So, if you drove on a road today, thank an engineer. If you rode in a vehicle, thank an engineer? Rode your bike to work or school? Yep, an engineer designed that bike lane, trail or road you rode on. So you walked today? Guess what? There's an engineer behind the sidewalks and crosswalks you used. Okay, you get the idea. Engineers pretty much have their hands, and mechanical pencils, in everything.

So, here are a couple National Engineers Week events I'd like you to keep in mind:

  • Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day 2013 on Thursday, February 21st
  • Discover Engineering Family Day is February 18
If you have any questions, here's the website for the National Engineers Week Foundation. Knock yourself out.

Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting Next Monday, Feb. 25

How did it get to be almost the end of February already? The end of the month means it's time for another Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting, so here's the agenda for the Feb. 25 meeting. Look through the agenda and feel free to attend if anything jumps out at you. As always, there's opportunity for public comment so if there's something transportation-related on your mind, come share it with our committee of citizens.

Flight Safety- There's A School For That

I just housesat for some friends who went to Hawaii for a week, despite the husband's anxiety over flying. I suggested he 'self-medicate' with something to decrease his anxiety but his argument was that he wants to be completely lucid  in case anything happens. Okay, I can grasp that. So I'm not sure whether I should suggest this course to him or if it would make him more nervous: British Airways is offering a Flight Safety Awareness Course for flyers; a modified version of the training flight crews go through after they're hired.

Through the course, you'll actually get to pull the inflaction cord on one of those airplane life vests, practice evacuating from a cabin filled with smoke and learn the correct position to assume if your plane starts distributing signs of 'distress.' Plus a lot more. And the best part? You get to jump down one of those inflatable emergency slides! Sign me up.

Plus you'll learn the history behind a lot of small details you may have never thought about before. For instance, why are the lights dimmed during nighttime takeoffs and landings?  You'll have to read this Seattle Times article to find out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spokane Summer Parkways Adding 'Kidical Mass' Events

It may only be February, but the folks behind Spokane Summer Parkways are already thinking about summer. They announced recently that the Parkways events will be changing a little this year. There will be one 'traditional' Summer Parkway event the evening of Wednesday, June 19 in the Comstock/Manito neighborhood (info here), but then things change a little. Instead of doing additional Parkways events, the group will host "Kidical Mass" rides on three separate dates for kids, their families and 'big kids' who would like to participate.

Kidical Mass are family friendly bike rides through the community. The rides start early in the season, the first one being in April! The dates and locations for 2013 are: April 27 in the West Central neighborhood, May 18 at Chief Garry and September 12 in the South Perry District. More info on Kidical Mass can be found here.

China to Build Car-Free City

Crazy or cool? China is taking a currently rural area and turning it into a high-density, car-free city. "Great City" will be built around a high-rise core housing 80,000 people, entirely walkable, and surrounded by green space.

Walking from the center of the city to built-in green spaces takes just ten minutes, and other nearby urban centers will be accessible by a mass transit system.

Web Urbanist has the story and lots of visualizations of what the city will look like.

A Little of This, A Little of That

A lot of people will be happy to hear that paving on Francis Avenue starts very soon. Plus, an upgrade to lighting on I-90 and an employee of another airline hands out leaflets on an Allegiant Air flight. The Spokesman's "Getting There" column has a roundup of this week's transportation news.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Boehner Plays Grinch To Obama's Santa Claus

House Speaker John Boehner is calling President Obama out on his latest proposal for infrastructure investment — $40 billion for maintenance, under a “fix it first” ethic.

Boehner's beef with the plan? There's no revenue stream attached to it.According to Boehner, "It’s easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all these things you want to give away, but at some point, somebody’s got to pay the bill.”

DC Streetsblog has the whole story.

WA Drivers Volunteering To Pay-By-The-Mile

Some Washington drivers are volunteering to pay by the mile to drive.It's part of a pilot project to test technology that would charge drivers for every mile they drive on public roads.

About 20 Washington residents are voluntarily taking part in the pilot program out of Oregon. The road-use charge is considered a possible alternative to the gas tax, which will generate less and less money as cars become more fuel efficient.

Once a month, the drivers get a bill charging them 1.5 cents a mile, then offsetting the total by the amount  already paid in gas tax. has how it's working so far.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bicycle Party Next Friday, Mark Your Calendar!

I get excited when I get invited to a party because there's nothing like free food and drink right? Well thanks in advance to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington 'cause they're hosting a party next week, no special occasion, for all us east siders who love to bicycle (or just talk about it- seems like I do more of that than actual riding these days). So come take advantage of beer and a bartender donated by River City Red (you had me at beer), talk to folks about bicycling, etc. and hopefully win some raffle prizes donated by the Bicycle Alliance and Spokane-area bike shops including Two Wheel Transit (bicycle fitting), Wheel Sport East (two complete bike tune-ups), North Division Bike Shop (details to come).

Also, donations are appreciated to benefit Spokane Bikes/Bike to Work Week and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. So, this fun party is next Friday night, Feb. 22 starting at 5:30 p.m. The Alliance is still working on a venue for it so I'll keep you updated. In the meantime, here's more info.

Mayors Get Together To Ask Gov. Inslee For Gas Tax

Sometimes politicians don't agree on much, but most Washington's mayors agree a gas tax is needed to fund transportation needs. Mayors of more than 40 cities across the state yesterday sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders, urging them to consider an 8 cent per-gallon gas tax. There's no mention of Spokane Mayor David Condon, though I don't know if that's because he wasn't involved with the letter or if it's because this CBS News article is out of the west side of the state.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

President Proposes Two New Infrastructure Programs

Surprising many, President Obama proposed two new infrastructure programs in his State of the Union speech last night. A “Fix-It-First” program would focus on putting “people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs” like deteriorating bridges and roads. A “Partnership to Rebuild America” would attract private capital to upgrade port infrastructure, pipelines, schools, and likely other infrastructure.

Transportation Issues Daily has the (few) details available now on these proposals.

Seasonal Road Restrictions In Effect

It seems early but Spokane County’s Engineering and Roads Department announced today that seasonal weight restrictions will be implemented on county roads, effective immediately. Roadway surfaces and the structures beneath have become weakened during this winter’s cycle of freezing temperatures, followed by warmer temperatures and precipitation. As a result, roads are vulnerable to severe damage and weight restrictions reduces the need for increased road maintenance and auto repairs later this year.

Seasonal road restrictions usually last for approximately 6 weeks. However, seasonal weather conditions vary from year-to-year and dictate the extent of the restrictions and when they begin. Impacted 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. Spokane County commercial vehicle enforcement officers will be on patrol and violators will be fined.
For more information on road weight limits and restrictions, go to the county website at

Some Jurisdictions Open, Some Closed Presidents' Day

Monday, Feb. 18 is the Presidents' Day holiday, which is always a mixed bag of some government offices being closed and others staying open. So here's what I've been able to confirm:
  • SRTC will be open
  • City of Spokane offices will be open
  • Spokane County offices will be closed
  • City of Spokane Valley offices will be closed
  • Spokane City's Council meeting has been cancelled for that day due to lack of a quorum
  • Parking meters don't have to be plugged that day

I couldn't find information on the smaller jurisdictions such as Cheney, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, etc. so if you have business with them you're on your own this time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State Of The Union Not Expected To Tackle Transportation

I have a game called Buzzword Bingo I play with some of my nerdier friends where we watch a speech or television show and cross off certain words on a bingo grid whenever their spokane. First one to get a straight line of words gets the bingo.

Well, if you're planning to do that tonight with transportation terms during the President's State of the Union Address, don't bother. While transportation is a huge issue right now and infrastructure is a hot topic, transportation is rarely referenced in the State of the Union according to Transportation Issues Daily, and here's why.

Could You Give Up Your Car For Lent?

Has the world gone crazy?? First the Pope announces he's stepping down, then a religious reference on a transportation blog and now religious leaders are suggesting you give up your car, or at least cut back on driving it, for Lent.

The Catholic and Protestant churches of Austria are promoting 'car fasting' or 'autofasten' in German, an initiative to encourage a change of independent mobility between Ash Wednesday (13 Feb) to Holy Saturday (30 March). And they've got a list of ways you can participate, including walking to church.

Copenhagenize has the story.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Where Does Your Money Go When You Buy Gas?

So you know that every time you fill your car's gas tank, a certain portion of your money goes to a gas tax, the oil company gets some and the gas station ends up with a little. But how is it actually divided? The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) had that question and took a closer look and their conclusion; most of the money you spend at the pump goes directly to one place: oil companies.

A typical American spends more than $22,000 on gas over the lifetime of a vehicle purchased in 2011 with average fuel efficiency of 22.8 mpg. UCS says, of that amount, oil companies rake in about $15,000.

Where does the remainder go?
Here's the full article and some cool charts and graphs as well.

Conceptual Map of What US High Speed Rail Could Look Like

In 2009, President Obama announced a new vision for developing high-speed intercity passenger rail in America, calling for a collaborative effort by the federal government, states, railroads, and other key stakeholders to help transform America’s transportation system through the creation of a national network of high-speed rail corridors.

To achieve this vision, a High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan was published and the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program launched.

Congress made $8 billion available but not much else has happened since then. Recently though, a conceptual map of what a nationwide high speed rail system could look like has been making it's rounds on the internet.
So above is a look at that map and you can find more info here.

Transportation Secretary Calls America "One Big Pothole"

You know what I liked about outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood? That he seemed to call it as he saw it. For instance, during a NPR radio interview last week, LaHood lamented the amount of infrastructure spending approved by Congress during his tenure, saying, "America is one big pothole."

He says America was at one time a world leader in infrastructure but we're losing our status in that area because we're not making investments in our infrastructure.
The Hill has more on his interview and call for more spending.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Way To Go Awards Honor Folks Who Don't Drive To Work Alone

SRTC made a good showing at today's Way to Go Awards, presented by the Spokane County Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) program.

One of our Transportation Advisory Committee members, Steve Tucker, was awarded an 'All Star Coach' award for his work encouraging his co-workers to find a way to get to work other than driving alone.

And not only did SRTC's Executive Director Kevin Wallace give the keynote address but we were also honored with a 'Pinnacle Award' (left) for our overall participation in, support for and contributions to the CTR program. While we are a very small office, nine of our eleven employees take part in the program- which is an 80% participation rate.

A big thanks to everyone who makes CTR, and these awards, happen every year. I know there's a huge effort that goes into it behind the scenes.

SRTC Board Agenda for February

Wow, has a month passed already? It's time again for the monthly SRTC Board meeting. Here's the agenda if you'd like to check it out. If anything jumps out at you on there, feel free to attend the meeting. They're usually pretty interesting and if you want to share your thoughts or comments, there's a public comment item on the agenda.

Drones Could Soon Help Maintain The Transportation System

Robots; no longer just good for fighting Darth Vader. Flying robots (also known as drones) could soon be used to safeguard millions of miles of highway in the country. Drones could apparently be used in the future to inspect bridges and roads, survey land with laser mapping and even alert officials to traffic jams or collisions.

A project studying the use of drones recently received $74,984 from the Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation to figure out how drones can help highway workers.
LiveScience has the details.

Congratulations To Ed's Premier Auto Body!

Congratulations to Spokane business Ed's Premier Auto Body; the recipient of the 2013 Clean Air Award. The award will be presented by Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) today at Spokane County's "Way to Go" recognition event, starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Davenport Hotel.

SRTC's Executive Director Kevin Wallace is the keynote speaker for the event.
Ed's Premier Auto Body is being recognized for their comprehensive approach to auto body repair, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced air emissions. Emission reductions include toxic air pollutants and volatile organic compounds.

Ed's has worked to increase the efficiency of paint transfer, which saves paint and reduces emissions. Ed's sends it's painters to an expensive, comprehensive painter training program in Seattle to learn to paint better, therefore more efficiently.

Fifteen years ago, in an effort to reduce hazardous waste generated by the collision repair process, Ed's  started distilling dirty solvents and recapturing solvents from waste paints so that they can be reused. They currently distill about 10 gallons of dirty solvent per day, reducing hazardous wastes to less than 120 gallons per year. Without recycling the solvents, they would generate 2,600 gallons of hazardous waste per year, adding up to 36,000 gallons of solvents that have been recycled and reused in 15 years. Ed's Premier Auto Body also recycles all of the waste oil and waste antifreeze generated from repair jobs.
In addition, in 2012, Ed's upgraded their lighting, light fixtures and retrofitted their natural gas heating system as a result of an energy audit by their utility provider. Those upgrades have improved the building's efficiency, resulting in reduced electricity and natural gas use, which also reduces air pollution emissions.
The Clean Air Award is given annually to a company that demonstrates innovation, leadership, and a strong commitment to reducing air emissions.

First Nonstop Flight From Spokane To Hawaii Leaves Saturday

Aloha! Oh how jealous I am of the passengers who will be the first aboard Allegiant Air's new nonstop service from Spokane to Honolulu this Saturday. The first flight leaves here Saturday at 8 a.m. and gets you to Hawaii right around time for lunch. And even better, Allegiant offers very competitive prices.
The Spokesman-Review has the story.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Senator Billig Proposes Bill To Charge Fee To Use Studded Tires

A shoutout to Senator Andy Billig, from right here in Spokane, for co-sponsoring a bill that would require a permit for using studded tires. The annual fee would be $75. The bill requires the fee be used for highway preservation related to damage caused by studded tires. I'll track this bill and keep you updated.

Engineering/Environment Scholarship Up For Grabs

Got a high school student interested in engineering or the environment? The I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition is offering a $1,500 scholarship to a high school junior or senior enrolling in college within the next two years.

Just east of Snoqualmie Pass, the state Department of Transportation is proposing to expand Interstate 90 from four lanes to six. This stretch of freeway cuts across wildlife areas that must be protected to preserve healthy wildlife populations. The freeway expansion can improve the situation for wildlife with new structures that allow wildlife to safely travel over or under the freeway. Information on these 'bridges' that can be used in preparing materials for the scholarship can be found here.

And Applications can be downloaded here. Use the search box at the top right of the pageand type in 2013 Bridging Futures.

Applications must be postmarked by May 3, 2013.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Projects Proposed To Be Added To Transportation Improvement Program

SRTC is seeking public comment on a proposed amendment to the 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP is a programming document that identifies specific projects proposed to be undertaken or constructed during the upcoming four years. The TIP includes project names and descriptions, the jurisdiction sponsoring them, funding attached to each project and where the funding came from (local, state or federal funds).

The proposed amendment includes adding projects to the TIP that have recently received federal funding through the Safe Routes to School program (SRTS) and the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). The following jurisdictions and projects are proposed to be added to the TIP. You can find more information, project details and how to comment on the proposal, by clicking here.

City of Spokane:
Ash and Maple St Couplet, Pedestrian Countdown Timer Modifications
Flint Rd and Sunset Hwy (US Hwy 2) Traffic Signal
Hamblen Elementary School Project
Westview Elementary School Project
Spokane County:
Hangman Valley Rd #1717, MP 2.76 to MP 3.31, Segment Safety Improvement
Madison Rd Segment Safety Improvements Project from MP 4.08 to 4.59
Magnesium Rd from MP 0.30 to 0.66 Segment Safety Improvements
Wellesley Avenue Safety Project - Murray Rd to Starr Rd

City of Spokane Valley:Citywide Traffic Sign Upgrade 2013
In addition, four other projects may potentially be selected by Spokane Transit Authority (STA) for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants. Spokane Transit Authority (STA) and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) are the designated recipients for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Section 5310 Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program, Section 5316 Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC), and Section 5317 New Freedom funding for the Spokane Urbanized Area (UZA). Following the selection of up to four of the following projects by the STA Board, selected projects will be incorporated into the TIP by the SRTC Board.
Kalispel Tribe of Indians (KALTRAN):
Kalispel Reservation Reverse Commute

City of Spokane:
Connect to Transit, Hardscape Improvements

Spokane Transit Authority (STA):
Mobility Orientation (Travel Training)
Preserving Service to Medical Lake

Who Decides If Your Vanity Plate Request Is Appropriate?

Really? 'Goes211' could be construed
as offensive?
So, you want a vanity plate for your fancy new car. You better watch what you put on it though, because it could be deemed offensive. This Seattle Times article has the stories of some pretty inocuous (you'd think) plate requests that were denied and talks about how a determination is made as to whether you get the plate you request.

While we're all adults here (I can't imagine that many children are interested in transportation blogs), I have to warn you that if you're easily offended, you may not want to read the article as it contains the terms 'MRPOOP,' 'GO2HELL' and 'ZIGZAG,' all terms that were deemed inappropriate for license plates. 

Study Says Walking, Bicycling To School Helps Your Child Concentrate

Besides getting exercise and fighting diseases such as diabetes, having your child walk or ride their bike to school may help in another area- concentration. A Danish study released late in 2012 found that kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than traveling by car or public transportation, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration.

The Atlantic Cities has more on the study results.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Input Sought On Logan Neighborhood Zoning

The City of Spokane Planning and Development Services department is partnering with the Logan Neighborhood Stakeholder Committee to host an open house this Wednesday, Feb. 6, to gather input from the public on new zoning and street design standards proposed for the Hamilton corridor between Desmet and Nora.
The open house is from 5:30 to 7 p.m., with a presentation at 6 p.m., at the Gonzaga University Plant Services Building Training Room, 1004 N. Ruby Street (Access via Desmet).
The Logan Neighborhood is working with the City on developing model “form-based zoning code” with a goal of encouraging more pedestrian activity in the district. Form-based code relies on the physical form of buildings and amenities to determine how development occurs, while traditional zoning is based on separation of uses, like commercial or residential uses.
The new zoning for this area is intended to simplify development design and the permit review process, replacing the current Centers and Corridors zoning and the City's design guidelines. The work is funded by the Logan Neighborhood. The work is intended as a model for the City of Spokane, demonstrating how a form-based code can be applied to places where pedestrian and bicycle traffic is encouraged.

Talk Face To Face With Your Legislators In Olympia Without Leaving Town

If you're like pretty much everyone else, you have a particular concern, pet peeve or preferred mode when it comes to transportation. When I'm out in the public, I hear a lot of people say we need better and more sidewalks. Others tell me they would like more bike lanes or bicycle education. Still others say our transit system could use a few improvements here or there.

Well, whatever is on your transportation wish list, your chance to tell our elected officials in Olympia is coming up next week. Futurewise is hosting 'Transportation Advocacy Day (from Spokane)' next week to let people speak with their legislator via Skype about their concerns.

Futurewise is a statewide public interest group working to promote healthy communities and cities while protecting farmland, forests and shorelines.

As Futurewise says, we can’t just expect state legislators to do the right thing. You have to make it clear, we need real funding options. For more information, or to sign up to participate in Transportation Advocacy Day, click here.

Latah Bridge Rehab Study Vol. 2 Available

Volume 2 of the Latah Bridge Rehabilitation Study has just been released. The study makes some key recommendations for the City of Spokane to consider, including:
  • A solution that ensures a long-term (40+ years) design life for the Latah Bridge should be considered, rather than a shorter design life solution.
  • The recommended long-term option provides for bridge deck widening sufficient to accommodate planned and forecast vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and freight demands with adequate lane widths and facilities to meet current standards.
The full study report on the bridge can be seen here.

Oregon Portion of West Coast Electric Highway Complete

Oregon has completed its portion of the West Coast Electric Highway, according to the Spokesman-Review. When completed, the electric highway will be equipped with quick-charge stations every 25 to 60 miles from British Columbia to Baja, California. The highway is a tri-state effort of Washington, Oregon and California.

Quick-charge stations installed along the highway can typically charge a car battery in 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on battery-charge levels, it can take between four to eight hours at a non-quick-charge station.

Transportation Roundup For Week Of Feb. 4

Washington public transit providers are asking state lawmakers to help alleviate their funding problems, two Felts Field buildings are sold and how well do you scrape your windshield on icy days? Results just out from a survey say probably not very well. The Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column has a roundup of this week's transportation news.

Friday, February 1, 2013

News Agency Says LaHood Has Ulterior Motive For Stepping Down

Well, I knew there had to be more to it than the "I'm retiring" story.

Satirical news source The Onion says U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is stepping down from his post for a more sinister reason than needing some time to play golf; they're blaming him for the disapearance of a country road.

Here's the story, but remember, if the glove doesn't fit, you must aquit. Or something like that anyway.

WSDOT 2013 Construction Projects For Our Area

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Eastern Region, has several projects that will be under construction in our area during 2013, valued at about $70 million.

  • The North Spokane Corridor (NSC) Francis Avenue Bridge Replacement project is already underway. 
  • The BNSF Railway Realignment and Children of the Sun Trail Extension will start soon. Both this project and the one above were made possible through savings from competitive bids and the award of a federal “TIGER” grant.
  • The US 195/Cheney-Spokane Road Interchange project is now under construction. This work replaces the existing, at-grade intersection, with a full “diamond” interchange. This will alleviate the cross-traffic and left-turn collision risk at that location, just to the southwest of downtown Spokane.
  • New asphalt paving on SR 291/Francis Avenue from Division Street to the vicinity of Lowell Road. The second half of that job is pavement repair and/or chip seal resurfacing from Lowell Road to the Spokane/Stevens County line.
  • Paving will be underway on US 2 from Espanola Road to Interstate 90. That work goes through the City of Airway Heights.
  • There is also asphalt paving on SR 27 in the Spokane Valley
More info on WSDOT Eastern Region projects can be found here.

Grand Central Terminal Turns 100

Happy 100th birthday to New York's Grand Central Terminal! It opened on February 2, 1913.

The picture to the left is the special section the New York Times ran to mark the occasion and praise the technological wonders and (at that time) modern luxuries of the terminal. The most impressive technology was the change to electric trains from the days of steam and diesel.

Because there were no fumes or steam, the new tracks could be buried in tunnels under the streets, solving problems that streets divided by street level rail yards had created.

 More interesting to some though was that the station boasted a women's hair salon, a 'kissing gallery' and was considered the first 'stairless' terminal. The New York Times has more on the terminal's birthday, and you can even browse that original newspaper.

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.