Friday, January 31, 2014

Ben Burr Trail Project To Move Forward


After months of public input, the City of Spokane announced this week they're ready to move ahead with the Design phase for the Ben Burr Trail. The gravel path is somewhat remote, perched on the side of a hill behind Underhill Park and running to Liberty Park through a screen of trees, and in some spots, walls of rock.

While many agree that the path needs safety improvements, not everyone is happy about the plan to make that happen. The City applied for, and received, federal money for the project, which means there are stipulation that must be complied with if the federal money is to be used. Or the project could be scrapped.
 
That means the quaint, remote-feeling path would be paved to ten feet wide with shoulders on each side and fencing to keep people from going off the trail and over the cliff's edge.
 
This week, City Council looked at input received from the public and voted to continue with the project, but with a few changes. The Spokane City blog has the details.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Twelve Thousand Transportation Professionals Can't be Wrong; This Was A Good Conference

Our Senior Transportation Planner Ryan was in Washington, D.C. last week for the Transportation Research Board's 93rd annual conference. And he was in good company. Twelve thousand transportation professionals attended from all over the world. The conference is popular because it brings the research and university folks (and their concepts and ideas) together with the people who implement transportation improvements, such as staff at Metropolitan Planning Organizations like SRTC and state departments of transportation.

There were dozens of sessions on different topics held throughout the week, including ones devoted to economic development, climate impacts, nonmotorized research, and measuring the effectiveness of transit investments. Ryan says that "doing more with less" was the most common theme for sessions held at the conference.

Ryan attended sessions on travel demand modeling, public outreach tools and methods, economic analysis and transportation investments, and bundling projects to reduce costs and delivery times. He said he took 20+ pages of notes to share with other SRTC staff and our partners!

The video below is a summary of the conference.

Little Snow This Winter Doesn't Mean Lots of Leftover Money

You would think that with the minimum amount of snow we've had this winter, until yesterday, local jurisdiction's snow expenditures would be minimal right?

Not so, says the Washington State Department of Transportation. From the WSDOT Eastern Region January 2014 Update newsletter: 

"Even though we haven’t had to plow the roadways as often, our winter snow and ice expenditures still remain about average.  Whether the truck plow/de-ice trucks are pushing snow or applying chemicals, the operating costs for fuel and labor doesn’t change much.  One advantage of a milder winter is that our crews are able to keep up with some of their regular highway maintenance tasks such as guardrail repairs, sign work, and damaged marker replacement.  Also, when we get into a spring freeze-thaw cycle, the crews will start trying to keep up with pothole repair."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Creepy Robots Direct Traffic In Japan

You've heard of Joe Dirt? Well meet Joe Safety; probably the creepiest thing in transportation you'll run into. Joe is one of many kinds of robots and mannequins used to direct traffic through Japan's construction zones. Why not use a blinking arrow like we do here in the states? That's just no fun. The Atlantic Cities explains the reasoning behind artificially intelligent flaggers and has pictures of other kinds being used. Creepy. Just creepy.

Bertha to Get Back To Work Soon

Vacation is over; it's back to work for Bertha this week, the Washington State Department of Transportation says. Bertha is the giant boring machine drilling under the city of Seattle to build the Highway 99 tunnel. It sat idle for almost two months after hitting a metal bar that stopped it in it's tracks.

The Seattle Times has an update.

TIP Comment Period Extended

We're extending the public comment period on a proposed amendment to the 2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) because of a correction to the amendment.

The TIP is a document that identifies projects proposed to be undertaken or constructed during the upcoming four years. It 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 City of Spokane’s High Drive Bicycle and Pedestrian Linkage project proposes to incorporate additional local funds totaling $8.4 million. The previous amount was $3.2 million.
 
Details of this project and others included in the proposed amendment can be viewed here. A public comment period on the amendment has been extended for comments related to this corrected project. All comments must be received 2/8/14 by 4 pm by emailing contact.srtc@srtc.org, mailing to SRTC, 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA 99201 or by calling 509/343-6370.
 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

City of Spokane Planning Meetings Next Week


What should the future of Spokane’s transportation and utility infrastructure look like? That’s the question the City of Spokane committed to answering this year. They're doing the “Link Spokane” planning process to create a 20-year vision for transportation and utility needs within the City, and a number of workshops are planned for next week to get you involved in the process.

 These meetings will focus on transportation needs, asking people to help define the types of streets that meet their needs for driving, biking, walking, accessing transit, and more. Here are the opportunities:

·         Bicycle Transportation System Planning Workshop--Monday, Feb. 3, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Council Briefing Room, lower level of Spokane City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

·         Drop-by Open Houses

o    Tuesday, Feb. 4, NorthTown Mall, Division Street Entrance, Level 1 from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
o    Wednesday, Feb. 5, Southside Christian Church, 2934 E 27th Avenue from noon to 6:30 p.m.
o    Friday, Feb. 7, River Park Square, Street Level from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

·         Council Connection--Watch and call in to “Council Connection” hosted by Council Member Mike Fagan on City Cable 5, the City’s government access cable station, Thursday, Feb. 6, from 6 to 7 p.m.


 

How Long It Felt Like You Waited For the Bus Versus How Long You Actually Did

Does waiting for the bus feel like this sometimes?
In talking with people over the years, I have found that the worst part of using public transit for many people is the wait for the bus.

Because they can't physically see the bus, there is a lot of worry over whether it's really on the way, whether it's on time, if they're at the right stop, etc., etc.

Plus you have to stand out in the weather with people driving by gawking at you and sometimes in a bad part of town or with other conditions that make you uncomfortable.

The "psychology" of waiting for the bus is something we don't normally think about but a facinating subject. Research suggests that people waiting for the bus often think they've waited twice as they actually have. This is a major deterrent when trying to get people to use public transit. How do you fight it? There's an app for that, according to the Atlantic Cities.

Want to Be President? Hand Over Your Drivers License

Joe Biden has a Corvette he's not allowed to drive.
Thank goodness if this is how he dresses whne driving.
Here's something I didn't know- once you become a VIP at the White House, such as president, vice president or first lady, you are no longer allowed to drive. Ever. Even after you're no longer in office.It's a security policy mandated by the Secret Service. And that's why Hillary Clinton says she hasn't driven since 1996.

Jalopnik has the story, although the put the emphasis on the importance of being able to drive so be warned in case that's not your line of thought.

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Stats Say Red Light Cameras Make Spokane Streets Safer

It's been a topic of debate since red light cameras were installed in Spokane; do they actually make streets safer? New statistics say yes.

Numbers show that collisions are reduced at the intersections where the cameras are installed and within the city as a whole, according to collision data maintained by the Washington State Patrol.

At the same time though, crashes have declined across the state and in many jurisdictions without red light cameras, so is the improved safety really the work of the cameras? The Spokesman-Review takes a closer look.

City Not Planning On Extending Street Bond Program

With the City of Spokane's Street Bond program coming to an end, Mayor Condon says he's not interested in another bond issue to continue the program.

Why? He says the bonds to finance the projects over the past ten years won't be paid off until 2024, which may not be the best use of taxpayer money. He's got another idea to finance road work instead.

STA Planning For Electric Trolley Through Downtown

A lot of people are talking about Spokane Transit Authority's (STA's) plan to bring an electric trolley to Spokane. Late last week, KHQ News showed people on the streets plans for STA's "Central City Line" that would go from Browne's Addition to Gonzaga University, via a route through downtown Spokane.

The feedback KHQ received appears to be mostly positive.

Legislators Warn Not To Get Hopes Up For New Money For North Spokane Corridor

It wasn't the message business, civic and political leaders wanted to hear when they traveled to Olympia last week for the annual Greater Spokane Incorporated trip to network with legislature members, but they were told not to get their hopes up for new money for the North Spokane Corridor (NSC).

The legislators told the group (including SRTC's Executive Directory who attended) that the chances of passing a transportation package to fund major projects using a gas tax are slim to none. They blamed politics, problems at the Washington State Deparment of Transportation and a lack of support by Spokane Republican leaders.

Others said any kind of package like that would end up on the ballot, where voters would reject it. Why? The Spokesman-Review looks at the issue.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Your Cell Phone Could Alert Cars You're Walking Or Bicycling Nearby

Your cell phone could keep you safe from being hit by a car in the future when walking or bicycling.
Researchers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) in Munich, Germany have developed technology that enables the computer system in cars to see the location of pedestrians and cyclists – even while they're not visible to the eye.
Pedestrian’s and cyclist’s cell phones will serve as transponders that will send a signal to a car's onboard positioning systems. The system will compute the projected trajectory of the person on foot or a bike and initiate an emergency braking sequence in case a pedestrian or cyclist moves into the path of a car.
 
Here's more on how it will work.

Adding Projects to the Transportation Improvement Program- What Do You Think?

It's that time again- we're looking for input on some items we're proposing to add to or change in the 2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP is a document that identifies projects proposed to be undertaken or constructed during the upcoming four years. It 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).

There are three pages of projects we prpose to add or amend in the TIP, including improvements to downtown Spokane pedestrian facilities, 37th Avenue from Regal to the east City Limits, Barnes Road and more. You can find information on each here. Scroll to the "TIP Amendments" section and click on "February" in the table.
 
Then let us know your thoughts. The public comment period goes through 4 p.m. on February 1, 2014. Comments can be submitted by emailing to contact.srtc@srtc.org, mailing to SRTC at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA, or by calling (509) 343-6370.

 

WSDOT Construction For Next Week

North Spokane Corridor/Francis Avenue Bridge and Intersection Improvements- Depending on weather, striping work may be underway with some intermittent lane restrictions near the Francis Avenue Bridge just east of Market Street.  Market Street is running as single lanes in each direction through the Market/Francis intersection on the west half of Market Street.  Francis Avenue is operating as single lanes in each direction on the new bridge.  The south side of the bridge along the traffic barrier is designated for the movement of bicycles and pedestrians. Full construction will resume in the spring.

US 195/Cheney-Spokane Road Interchange- Depending on weather, signage work may be underway with some intermittent lane restrictions.  In general, northbound US 195 drivers need to be alert for slow traffic entering the highway left lane from Cheney-Spokane Road.  The dedicated northbound acceleration lane has been removed.  The northbound left turn lane remains closed and is signed for no left turns.   US 195 northbound drivers must use Qualchan Road to access Cheney-Spokane Road.  The southbound off ramp to Cheney-Spokane Road is open to traffic. 
 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SRTC's January Newsletter Has Super Powers

What does a Wonder Woman wannabe have to do with transportation planning in our area? Guess you'll have to read our January newsletter to find out.

We wrapped 2013 up in a flurry of activity and things haven't slowed down. So what have we been working on? It's more like, what haven't we been working on! Things are hopping in the world of transportation planning.

To get caught up, check out the newsletter here.

"School Bus Glossy Yellow" is the New Yellow

Slow day in committee? Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, yesterday proposed a colorful bill that would change Idaho's guidelines for school bus colors to match the federal standard.

Idaho's current required color is "School Bus Chrome," while the federal standard is No. 595a, Color 13432, better known as "School Bus Glossy Yellow." Well duh, of course it is.

Apparently choosing school bus colors isn't as easy as you think and goes back many years.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

U.S. Cities With the Most Car-Free Households


I've posted repeatedly on here about how less people are driving these days, or driving less miles when they do drive. New research from the University of Michigan suggests that we've reached, and are on the downhill side of, peak car ownership in the U.S.
The rate of vehicle ownership has dropped from 2.07 vehicles in 2007 to 1.98. Why the drop? The recession? A change in culture? The location of where you live? DC Streetsblog takes on some of these questions.

Fine For Using Handheld Phone While Driving Could Double

The punishment for using a handheld phone while driving in Washington State could get tougher under a proposal introduced last week by a member of the Transportation Committee.

Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines, suggested doubling fines for repeat offenders. The current penalty is $124 for first and all offenses. If caught using a handheld phone, it would also go on your driver's record.

The News Tribune has more on this proposal.

New Online Map Tracks State Transportation Spending

How much money would you guess is spent on transportation in Spokane County? Why guess when you can use a new tool that tells you? A new online map by the Washington State Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program and the Office of Financial Management has information on how much money is spent in each of the state's 39 counties and 49 legislative districts on transportation, but also how many employees work in the field of transportation (and other fields), the statewide Ominbus Budget divided by spending area, state revenue by source and a LOT of other info.

If you're looking for information on how the state spends money, this is the place for you. The map of capital and transportation projects is most interesting to me of course. Just click the county you're interested in and "view report" and probably more information that you could ever need comes up.

Check it out here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Transportation Advisory Committee Meets Next Monday

Next Monday, January 27 at 3 p.m. is the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and we're starting the year with a full slate of projects and SRTC activities to discuss. Check out the agenda here. As you can see, it's a really full one and there are some interesting topics on it. TAC meetings are always open to the public (especially fitting since the TAC is our citizens' advisory group), so feel free to attend if you can. There's a "Public Comment" item on the agenda as well in case you have thoughts on transportation you'd like to share.

Does "Transportation Racism" Still Exist in this Day and Age?

Among other things, Martin Luther King, Jr. is famous for leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1954, which pretty much jump-started the civil rights movement in the United States. Sixty years later, and some people say transportation is still a civil rights issue, because transportation provices access to opportunity, jobs, health car and other public services. Those without cars have a much more difficult time accessing those services in a country where the transportation system is outdated and just plain crumbling in some places. Does that mean those folks without equal access to transportation and the opportunities it offers are being discriminated against?

This article on OpEdNews.com says "yes" and calls it "transportation racism."

Omnibus Bill Broken Out For Transportation Dollars


Last Friday, the President signed the $1.86 trillion dollar "Omnibus Bill" into law. The Omnibus law is an appropriations package for fiscal year 2014 that establishes discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion and provides $98 billion for defense and disaster relief. 
It also includes $53.5 billion in non-discretionary “obligation limitation” funding for the Department of Transportation. This is $164 million below what was designated for 2013 and $4.9 billion below the President had requested.
Here's how transportation dollars are broken out in the bill:

Highways – Provides almost $41 billion in obligation limitation funding for the Federal Highway program – the same level authorized in the MAP-21 transportation authorization legislation, which expires on September 30, 2014. This is an increase of $557 million from the fiscal year 2013 level.

Transit – Contains $2.15 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), a decrease of $100 million from the fiscal year 2013 level. It also allows $8.6 billion in state and local transit grant funding from the Mass Transit Account (of the Highway Trust Fund), consistent with MAP-21, to help communities build, maintain, and ensure safety of mass transit systems. 

The legislation provides a total of $2.1 billion (which includes funding from prior years and $93m in bus rapid transit projects) for Capital Investment Grants (“New Starts”), full funding for state and local “Small Starts,” and funding for all current “Full Funding Grant Agreement” projects. These programs provide competitive grant funding for major transit capital investments, including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail, planned and operated by local communities.

Air –
Included in the legislation is $12.4 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), $168 million below the fiscal year 2013 level. This funding will support the full operations of the air traffic control system, including the hiring and training of air traffic controllers and safety inspectors to ensure that facilities are fully staffed to serve the nation’s flying public. The bill preserves funding for FAA’s Next Generation air transportation systems (NextGen) – investments that will help ease future congestion and reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, $3.35 billion in “obligation limitation” funding is provided for airport construction projects. The bill also rejects the Administration’s proposals for new passenger facility fees.

Rail –
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is funded at $1.6 billion, a decrease of $34.6 million below 2013 levels. The bill expands oversight and includes policy reforms for Amtrak to ensure the best use of tax dollars. The bill included $1.390b for Amtrak capital grants and no funding is provided for High Speed Rail.

TIGER –
Provides $600m for the discretionary capital program.  Passenger and rail freight transportation projects are now eligible and there is a $35m set-aside for planning, preparation, or design of eligible projects.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Load Restrictions Removed From Greene Street Bridge Today

Well it's official. The Greene Street Bridge is now strong enough to
support the weight of fully loaded semis and other trucks. Until a project to strengthen it started this fall, the bridge was considered functionally obsolete, or not built to handle today's large loads and additional truck axles.

Epoxy injections were made to fill cracks in the bridge and carbon fiber reinforcing material applied to make the structure stronger. And it all happened in just a little over three months, which is really quick for this kind of work!
 
The $1.7 million total project cost included unexpected expenses for the injections. A full bridge replacement would have cost almost $12 million and taken years. SRTC provided about $800,000 in funds from the Surface Transportation Program for this project and the rest came from the Arterial Street Fund.

The project wrapped up recently and the City of Spokane marked the accomplishment with a ceremony today to take down the load limit signs that stated in the past that the bridge wasn't safe for large trucks and equipment.

Mayor David Condon gave a short speech about the importance of the bridge as a freight route and a representative from the contractor that did the work talked about what it took to retrofit the bridge, then the big moment when the sign came down, followed by a parade of semis across the bridge, all honking their horns and a fire truck with lights going. It was all very dramatic!

"Cycle-Centric" Apartments Going Up In Portland

Would you choose a place to live based on your bike? That's what builders of a new apartment complex in Portland are hoping a lot of people will do.

What's being called a "cycle-centric" complex is being built in the City's Lloyd district, with 1,200 parking spaces for bikes! The developer says he envisions the complex serving commuters and shoppers in addition to residents, as it's near two bus lines.

Eventually they'd like to include a bicycle valet and an on-site repair service.  Takepart looks at the other amenities this new apartment complex will have.

 

Spokane Transit Plans For West Plains Transit Center


I hear all the time from folks on the West Plains that the area needs a transit center of some sort to provide better service to the several small towns west of Spokane. Well west plains folks, your thoughts have been heard and Spokane Transit would like to make your wish come true.

STA is in the starting phases of planning for a West Plains transit center that includes a park-and-ride facility, transit center and a "flyer stop" in the median of I90 that can be reached by a pedestrian bridge. What's a flyer stop? Something really cool that we haven't seen around here before. The Journal of Business explains.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Transportation Technical Committee Meets Jan. 22

So, let the transportation planning for 2014 begin! The first meeting of the Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) is next Wednesday, January 22 at 1:30 p.m. The meeting agenda is here, and it's got some really interesting stuff on it.

As always, all SRTC committee meetings are open to the public so feel free to attend. We also have an agenda item for public comment so share your transportation thoughts with us.
 

Holiday Closures For Monday

Don't forget that on Monday, January 20, many area government offices will be closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It's a mixed bag of closures though, as some agencies, such as SRTC, don't take the day off. Here is a list of notifications I've received so far as to who will be open or closed.
  • SRTC will be open
  • The City of Spokane Valley offices will be closed.
  • The Spokane County Courthouse (including Municipal, District and Superior Courts), Public Safety Building and Planning Departments are closed.
  • Spokane County Engineering and Roads and the Utilities Division will be open.
  • Spokane City Hall is closed.
If you're not working, or can take some time out of your day, attend the 9 a.m. Rememberance Celebration and Unity March that starts at the Convention Center.

 

 

Parking Assist Fail

All those new gadgets on cars these days that almost do the driving for you? Yeah, you may not want to depend on them TOO much. This is the result of the parking-assist function taking over in a BMW. It parked the car alright- on top of another.
ABC News tells us what happened.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Former Spokane Valley Councilmember and SRTC Board Member Gary Schimmels Passes

Gary Schimmels at his last SRTC Board meeting
with former Board Chair Steve Peterson.
SRTC staff would like to offer our condolences to the family of former Spokane Valley City Councilmember Gary Schimmels. Mr. Schimmels was also a long-time member of the SRTC Board until the end of 2013 and always a champion of our agency, even when we were struggling with identity and leadership issues.

Mr. Schimmels was a dedicated public servant, always willing to volunteer his time on subcommittees or special projects, and always had a story to share. He would arrive early and leave late from meetings at our office so he could chat with and catch up with staff. He was always cheerful and a positive influence.

He will be greatly missed around the SRTC office.

Inslee Asks For Transportation Package in State of the State Address

In his State of the State address yesterday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee challenged the Senate to pass a transportation package to restart negotiations with the House, which passed a plan last year.

He also called for action on climate change, although he didn't mention any specifics. Republicans say that if that action includes promoting low-carbon fuels that raise the price of gas, they'll oppose it.

The Spokesman-Review tells us why, plus has the full report on Inslee's State of the State speech.

Federal Funding Pays For "Don't Drive Stone" Ads

This is happening in Colorado, so I'm sure we'll see it here soon as well. The state is warning drivers about driving stoned in a $430,000 campaign paid for with federal funding. The first recreational marijuana retail shops in the U.S. opened in Colorado this month.

A series of television public announcements start airing soon, warning drivers that offenders will face similar penalties to those caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

Handouts and posters will be distributed at marijuana shops as well. But how will law enforcement be able to tell if someone is too stoned to drive? WTAQ has details on Colorado's driving-while-stoned law.

 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spokane City Looks to Future of Transportation/Utilities With "Let's Link"


What should the future of Spokane’s transportation and utility infrastructure look like? That’s what the City of Spokane is trying to figure out with their “Link Spokane” planning process to create a 20-year vision for transportation and utility needs within the City.

Decisions must be made about long-term policies that address maintenance needs, environmental regulations, and strategies to accommodate growth and economic development. What;s new about this process is integrating plans for transportation and utilities, which has not been done in the past.

This week's Inlander includes a booklet that explains the work and has details on upcoming workshops. The Down to Earth Northwest blog has more information on this planning initiative.

Spokane Valley Reconsidering Need For New I90 Overpass at University Road

Spokane Valley is reconsidering the need for a new Interstate 90 overpass near University Road. Instead, they are considering expanding the underpass at Argonne Road and possibly building a new bicycle- and pedestrian-only bridge at Valley Mission Park.

The improvements are aimed at easing growing traffic congestion on the handful of overpasses that get cars north and south over I90. The Spokesman-Review has the details.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Take A Quick Survey On Snoqualmie Pass Visibility

Do you drive over Snoqualmie Pass? Then the Washington State Department of Transportation wants to hear from you.They'd like you to take an online survey on visibility of striping on Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass. Responses from the survey will provide feedback about conditions before construction starts this summer on a pilot project aimed at improving visibility and safety on I-90. 
 
The pilot project is the first in the state to install lane markings with solar-powered light-emitting diodes. The new markings are aimed at improving visibility of the lane lines despite harsh weather conditions on the pass. If successful, the solar-powered LED markers could possibly be used in other locations along the corridor.
 
Please take the survey here.

Ice Road Truckers Will Have More Roads To Truck On This Year

Fans of the show "Ice Road Truckers" will be happy to know that more miles of ice roads than ever were approved by Alaska officials for construction this winter. The ice roads cost $80,000 a mile to build and have to support vehicles carrying oil drills that weigh up t two million pounds and are 35 feet wide.

But why are more ice roads needed? Alaska Dispatch has the story.

Western Washington Problems Put A Kink In Gas Tax Talks

The 520 Floating Bridge
Washington State lawmakers last week said that issues with the State Highway 520 bridge and Alaskan Way Viaduct replacements — including whether Seattle should pay for tunnel cost overruns — will make discussions on potentially raising the gas tax even more difficult.

Negotiations ended in December without settling on a new tax package to fund transportation projects. Now, it was announced last Wednesday that another $170 million is needed to complete the Highway 520 bridge replacement over Lake Washington due to a design error. Tunnel digging for the Alaskan Way Viaduct has also been hung up for over a month, which could mean cost overruns. This has many lawmakers from the east and central parts of the state worried that taxpayers are going to end up footing the bill for facilities they don't even use.

KATU.com has more on how this could throw a wrench in gas tax talks.

Utah Considers Raising More Speed Limts to 80 MPH

Who knew the good folks of the state of Utah liked to drive so fast? Last year, Utah lawmakers upped the speed limit to 80 miles per hour on almost 300 miles of rural freeway. Now, the state is looking to raise the speed limit on the rest of it's interstate freeway system to 80 wherever studies find that it is safe and makes good engineering sense.

The Salt Lake Tribune has the story.



 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Taxpayers In What State Pay The Most in Road Taxes and Fees?

If you think you pay a lot in taxes to keep up our state's roads, take comfort in that you don't pay as much as the folks in Delaware. Drivers there pay a bigger share of the state and local costs of keeping up roads than those in any other state, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation.

Tolls, state gas taxes and fees for licenses and registrations covered 79 cents out of every dollar Delaware spent on roads in 2011, the latest year for which data is available.

How do northwest states, and all other states compare? Stateline has the numbers.

MacGyver Star Can Thwart Evil AND Ride a Bike

It's no wonder Patty and Selma from the Simpsons love MacGyver so much. Despite not having done any real acting since the 1980s, actor Richard Dean Anderson just got a lot cooler in my book. Besides being an action hero on camera, Anderson roade over 5,000 miles on his bike when he was a teenager, from Minnesota to Alaska! And he probably did it without supplies of any kind, stopping to kill wildlife with his teeth to feed himself, and cooking it over a fire started with twigs rubbed together.

Here's more from treehugger on his bike journey.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mansfield Avenue Extention Public Open House

Mark your calendars for an open house next week hosted by the City of Spokane Valley to learn about a project to connect Mansfield Avenue from Pines Road to Mirabeau Parkway. The open house is Wednesday, January 15, from 5-7 p.m. at CenterPlace Regional Event Center.

The project is planned for construction in 2014, and will extend Mansfield about 300 feet eastward from where it currently ends just east of Houk. When completed, you will be able to travel between Pines and Mirabeau without having to detour via Indiana Avenue or Mirabeau Parkway.

In addition to constructing the new section of roadway, the project includes the addition of a center turn lane between Pines and Houk, bike lanes, sidewalk upgrades to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and stormwater drainage improvements.

Funding for the estimated $1.9 million project is provided by the Federal Highway Administration, Washington State Transportation Improvement Board, a local developer, and the City of Spokane Valley.

Watch Your Speed- Because Others Aren't Watching Anything

This is an interesting public service announcement out of New Zealand. What's interesting about it is that it's not just preaching at you not to speed, but saying you should obey traffic laws because others don't, or make mistakes. If someone else messes up but you're in control, chances are good you can avert an accident. If two drivers are hurtling at each other at high speeds though, tragedy could be the result.

Spokane Valley Says More Money Needed For Street Improvements

Spokane Valley's city council is being proactive about maintaining it's streets. At the last council meeting of 2013, they looked at ways to get more money for more rehabilitation projects in 2014, and at what amount the city should be spending to keep the roads in good shape.

The Spokane Valley Herald looks at the city's goals for the coming year.

Most Bike Lanes Per U.S. City

Which U.S. city has the most bike lanes? According to Bloomber's "Best and Worst" list, it's Tuscon, AZ, with 620 miles of onstreet bike lanes and 2.73 miles of bike lanes per square mile. The top ten cities with the most bike lanes are below.
1 Tucson, AZt
620.0
2.73
2 Philadelphia, PAt
431.0
3.22
3 New York, NYt
407.0
1.34
4 San Jose, CAt
400.0
2.26
5 Albuquerque, NMt
372.0
1.98
6 Phoenix, AZt
371.0
0.72
7 Mesa, AZt
354.0
2.58
8 Fresno, CAt
350.0
3.13
9 San Diego, CAt
325.5
1.00
10 Jacksonville, FLt
320.0
0.43

Want more? The list goes all the way to 25. Click here to see if any northwest cities made the list.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Icelandic Highway Project Halted Because It Goes Through An Elf Habitat Area

Christmas may be over but the elves are still busy in Iceland apparently. Okay, maybe not THAT kind of elves. According to the Associated Press, "elf advocates" in Iceland have joined with enviornmentalists to abandon a highway project through an area where elves are believed to have a church. Really?? Yep, you read that right.

Here we have to watch out for owls and bats; in Iceland it's elves. Elves are a huge part of Icelandic culture, allegedly making their homes in crags and rocks.
 
The AP says the elf issue is brought up so often that "the road and coastal administration has come up with a stock media response for elf inquiries, which states that 'issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point while the elves living there have supposedly moved on.' "
 
Wow, who are their PR people? NPR has more on this unlikely story.

Hong Kong Bus Paparazzi Stalk Their Prey

If you think the paparazzi in the U.S. are bad, you should see the fans in Hong Kong. Bus fans, that is. Apparently there are thousands of fans of public transportation there who actually stalk buses on their routes to get pictures of their favorites. The photos are traded online, as are videos of bus rides and gossip about changes in bus models and routes. Bus souvenirs are also sold in shops, such as miniature bus models.

But why?? The Wall Street Journal has the answer.

Monday, January 6, 2014

SRTC Board Meeting This Thursday, January 9


The first meeting of the year for the SRTC Policy Board is this Thursday, January 9 at 1 p.m. here at SRTC, 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310.

The meeting agenda is here. If there's anything on it that catches your eye, feel free to attened the meeting. And if you have any thoughts on transportation you'd like to share, there's an item on the agenda for public comment.
 

License Tab Projects, Ben Burr Trail and the Keller Ferry Back In Service

The city of Spokane is planning work on a big list of small street projects in 2014 that will be funded by a $20 annual license tab fee charged to vehicle owners in the city. City of Spokane staff will be at the Rockwood Neighborhood Council meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Hutton Elementary School to talk about plans to improve and extend Ben Burr Trail. And the new Keller Ferry is back in service after being taken offline following an inspect that found water insdie the hull of the boat.
The Spokesman-Review's "Getting There" column looks at everything happening in local transportation this week.

Mystery Item That Stopped Drilling Under Seattle Identified

Mystery solved. I blogged last week about a mystery buried object  that had stopped Bertha, the world's largest tunnel-boring machine that is drilling a tunnel under Seattle. That object turned out to be nothing more than a metal pipe. So how could such a minor item stop such a mighty machine? And are there more obstacles in Bertha's way? Plus, how much will the delay caused by the pipe add to the project? The New York Times has the answers.


Public Meeting For Updated Spokane Regional Trail Plan

The Inland Northwest Trails Coalition is hosting a drop-in gathering this Wednesday, Jan. 8, to provide a chance for members of the public to ask and learn about the recently updated Spokane Regional Trail Plan.

The gathering is from 4:30-6:00 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E Mansfield, Spokane Valley, WA, 99212. If you plan to attend, you're asked to please RSVP in advance here: intc-news@npogroups.org.  

 If you can't attend, you can still review the plan here then submit comments to Paul Knowles at Spokane County at PKnowles@spokanecounty.org.

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.