Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bicycling Projects Increasing in our Area

Spokane's City Council yesterday approved an update to the city's Master Bike Plan. And the shift in commitment toward bicycling infrastructure shows in this year's construction schedule. The City of Spokane has scheduled projects that will add about 13 miles of new dedicated lanes or separated paths to more than 100 miles of bikeways.

Cycling infrastructure is also increasing outside the city limits, as well as advocacy. A recent “bike summit” in Olympia had multiple representatives from Spokane, including SRTC Senior Transportation Planner Eve Nelson.

This article in the Spokesman-Review takes a look at some of the advances in bicycle infrastructure this year, as well as the attitude toward cycling. Eve is also quoted in it so go ahead, check it out. 

Lots of US 195 Construction Planned This Year

US 195 between Pullman and Spokane will be a very busy highway this year with four large pavement jobs under construction. Two asphalt paving jobs will begin in Whitman County. In addition, an asphalt paving project and a concrete rehabilitation job are slated for Spokane County.
Contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will handle the tasks with four work zones spread over a 76-mile section of highway.

•  US 195/SR 27 (Pullman) to Babbitt Road — This resurfacing project begins mid-May. It’s expected to take about seven weeks to complete. This is daytime work and drivers should expect delays with flaggers and pilot cars directing traffic. One important note: In the north half of the project, the base asphalt layer will be paved with a “cold, in-place, recycled pavement” process.  This process requires a curing period before traffic can drive on the fresh asphalt.  There may be times when the lane is closed but no active work seems to be underway.

•  US 195/Colfax to Dry Creek Road — This is an eight week asphalt paving job with a planned start in mid-June. Work is scheduled for evening and overnight hours to help reduce the delays for drivers. The project includes repaving Main Street in downtown Colfax. There will be some daytime lane restrictions near the railroad crossing at the north end of Colfax.

•  US 195/Plaza to Cornwall Road — A mid-July start is planned for this asphalt paving project. It’s expected to take five weeks to complete. This is daytime work and drivers should expect delays with flaggers and pilot cars directing single-lane, alternating traffic.

•  US 195/Excelsior Road to Interstate 90 — This 16-week project begins in mid-July. The project will improve the southbound lanes of US 195 using several techniques. Some concrete panels will be removed and replaced. Contractor crews will also jack up some of the panels. That involves pumping grout under the concrete panel to bring it up to the same level as the others. Cracks in other concrete panels will be sealed. Work is scheduled during daytime hours and one lane of southbound US 195 will be open at all times. There may be some minor disruptions to traffic near the on/off ramps and intersections.

You can view a map of all four projects on the US 195-2015 construction website.

Local Construction Update

Indiana and Sullivan Intersection work- Nightly work will occur from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. at the intersection of Indiana Ave. and Sullivan Rd. to repair concrete panels. Lane closures go through Sunday morning, April 5. Daytime lane restrictions will remain in place to guide motorists around newly placed concrete work.  At least one lane in each direction will be open at all times.

Sidewalk and ADA work- Begins Monday, March 30 on Jackson Street from Perry to Columbus and D Street from 17th to 19th Avenues.

"Hawk" Signal installation- installation on the light that gives drivers a red light so pedestrians can cross started yesterday (Monday) at Ruby and Boone. A single lane is closed on Ruby.

I90 Division Gateway Project from 4th to 3rd Avenues- This project is for beautification improvements to five highly visible locations at the I90 and Division Street gateway entrances to the City.  Work will be from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and will include the closure of one westbound lane on the off ramp and the West lane under I90.

Residential Street Sweeping- Street sweeping begins Monday, March 30. 

Work will begin on “A” Street to Driscoll Boulevard and on Rowan Street to Francis.  Work will also begin on Wellesley to Rowan and Driscoll Boulevard to “A” Street.

Northeast:  Work will begin on Hough Street to Perry and Mission to North Crescent.

South: Work will begin on 18th Avenue to Hartson and Southeast Boulevard to Crestline.  Work will also begin on 2nd Avenue to 14th and Monroe Street to Cannon.

Indiana Lane Closure- Geotechnical exploration along Indiana from Ruby to Dakota will close the southern eastbound lane on Indiana until 4/1/15.  

Rebecca Street from Pratt to 7th Avenues and Pratt to Hartson- Utility crews are beginning initial work prior to the start of the road project.  There will be delays and closures during this phase.

Garden Park Booster Station Rehabilitation/37th Ave.- This project is to rehabilitate the existing booster station with a new building, pumps, and motors. 37th Avenue is closed for approximately three weeks between Lee St. and Altamont St. The detour route is Crestline to Thurston to Regal.  

I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades- Monday evenings through Saturday mornings, between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, be alert for eastbound and/or westbound shoulder and/or lane restrictions on I-90 between the Broadway and Argonne Interchanges plus in the vicinity of the Hamilton Street, Pines, Sullivan, Barker, Appleway/Country Vista, and Stateline interchanges.  There may also be narrow lanes and/or lane restrictions on the on/off ramps, bridges, and adjacent streets as crews replace guardrails.

Last Day To Get Studded Tires Off Your Car

Last day to remove your studded snow tires in Washington, if you didn't get the memo that this mild winter didn't require them. Or if you just haven't had time.

After today, you risk a $124 fine if caught driving with them on. You could be paying a fee to use them in the future too. Bills introduced in the state House and Senate (one introduced by Andy Billig, D-Spokane) this session would require a permit to use studs.

The Seattle Times has more info on why these bills probably won't succeed, and a new report on how damage studded tires actually do to our streets.

Two "Hawk Lights" Being Installed in Spokane City

If you hadn't noticed yet, work began yesterday to install a new "Hawk light," similar to the one in the picture to the left, over Ruby Street at the intersection of Boone Avenue.

Also known as a "High Intensity Activated Crosswalk," the light is part of an ongoing pilot program to test their effectiveness in various locations and traffic situations at improving pedestrian safety.

The HAWK signal will flash yellow when a pedestrian pushes the signal button, change to solid yellow and then to solid red, which requires all drivers to stop. Drivers can proceed when the red light starts flashing as long as pedestrians have cleared the crosswalk.

The pedestrian traffic between the university and surrounding residential neighborhoods and the numerous retail businesses in the area makes Ruby and Boone a good next location to test their effectiveness. New residential and retail construction in the area will add to the foot and bicycle traffic that already uses the retail corridor.

Construction of another HAWK light will begin next Monday at 18th Avenue and Grand Boulevard. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Proposal Would Change Pedestrian Project & Restripe Crestline Street

There have been a couple changes suggested to our Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and we're looking for input on them.

The TIP is a document that identifies projects programmed 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 TIP is amended regularly as SRTC’s member jurisdictions have projects to add, change or remove from the Plan. The latest proposed amendment would make these changes:
  • ·  Modify the City of Spokane’s 2013 Downtown Pedestrian Improvements project to remove sidewalk bump-outs (a traffic calming measure used to extend the sidewalk to reduce the distance pedestrians have to cross a street) and apply state funds over two years.
  • ·         Restripe Crestline Street between Euclid and Francis from a four lane street into two lanes with a two-way left turn lane and bike lanes.

You can view all the details on the requested changes by clicking the image below to view it full size. It can also be viewed at www.srtc.org. If you have comments, get them to us by 4 p.m. on Friday, April 3, 2015. Comments can be submitted by emailing to contact.srtc@srtc.org, mailed to SRTC at 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA, or by calling (509) 343-6370.

Friday, March 20, 2015

There. I think that says it all. If you didn't figure it out, I'm out of here for a week so there will be a small disruption in posting. Check back Mar. 31 for all the latest in transportation happenings. 

Spokane City Construction Projects

Garden park booster station rehabilitation on 37th Ave.- This project will rehabilitate the existing booster station. A full road closure on 37TH between Lee and Altamont  will occur Monday, March 23 for approximately four weeks for installation of a transmission main and connection to the new Booster Station. The detour is Crestline to Thurston to Regal.

CSO 6, control facility and integrated interceptor, from Kiernan Ave. to Northwest Blvd.
- Northwest Boulevard will be closed from H St. to Garland St. for installation of a 900,000 gallon stormwater storage facility.  The short detour route for this project is along G Street and Garland Street.

2014 Arterial Curb Ramp projects resume- This project to replace sidewalk curbs and ramps resumed on March 9 on Monroe Street at the intersections of Queen and Everett. Traffic control will be in place for signal lane closures starting on the west side of Monroe at these intersections. The work is scheduled to take approximately 12 days. There will be some delays. 

East Sprague Ave. CSO Basin 33-2 Control Facility- This project will construct a combined sewer overflow facility on City property across from the City’s Sewer Maintenance Facility. One lane will be open in each direction on Sprague from Scott St. to the Hamilton Overpass. Beginning Monday, February 23rd northbound and southbound Sprague Way (NOT Sprague Ave.) will be closed through May 15.

It's Construction Time, Which Means You'll Be Needing Our Online Construction Map

Zoom in to your neighborhood or commute route
to see what projects are planned there.
Road construction projects are starting up around the area so it's time to check out the 2015 Spokane Regional Road Construction Map. Every year, SRTC partners with jurisdictions in Spokane County to put all construction projects that impact traffic on one map. It’s a clearinghouse of information to help you avoid road construction because delays and traffic jams cost us all time and money.

Click on a line or point identifying a project
to see a description of it.
The online map can be viewed on your smartphone, tablet or computer. It is interactive and lets you zoom in on your neighborhood or commute route, read project descriptions by clicking on a location, and click on links embedded in the map to learn more about each project. The Regional Road Construction map is updated often to reflect progress made, including when new projects start and others are completed.

You can also click on the logo
to go to that jurisdictions page for more
information on each project.
Using ArcGIS technology for this map allows SRTC to more actively involve the public in transportation planning and activities. By reducing the number of vehicles delayed by road construction, the amount of pollution released into the air is also reduced, safety is increased through driver awareness of construction zones, and the impact on the economy caused by time wasted in traffic is lessened. 

Click the "Share" link to send the map in an email
or embed it in a website or blog.
ArcGIS Online maps also provide more information than traditional paper maps by allowing users to access additional project information through links to other websites and allowing users to pass the information to others by emailing a link to the map or embedding it in a blog or website.

Check out the 2015 Spokane Regional Road Construction Map by clicking here and see what projects are scheduled for your neighborhood. 

Firefox, Safari, Chrome, the latest versions of Internet Explorer and mobile browsers work the best with ArcGIS Online. 

Honda Expands Airbag Recall

Honda is adding nearly 105,000 vehicles to its U.S. recall of driver’s side air bag inflators that can explode with too much force.

The added vehicles include nearly 89,000 2008 model Pilot SUVs,11,000 2004 Civics and 5,000 2001 model year Accords, according to the Spokesman-Review.

Dealers will replace the driver air bag inflators for free. With the added vehicles, Honda has now recalled 5.5 million Honda and Acura cars and SUVs nationwide from the 2001 to 2011 model years because of the air bag problems.

The company said it will send letters to owners of vehicles in the expanded recall “over time” as replacement parts become available. 

Carpooling May Require 3 People on West Side's Newest Interstate

Here's to hoping your carpool is THIS much fun right?
Update: The Washington state Transportation Commission on Wednesday night made it official: carpools with three or more people will be exempt from paying a toll, as will motorcycles, transit vehicles and vanpools.

A carpool may not be considered two people any longer, at least on the new Interstate 405 express toll lanes on the west side of the state. The Tri-Cites Herald is reporting that the Washington State Transportation Commission is considering requiring carpools of at least three people at peak hours, plus an annual pass, to use the express lanes for free. Others would have to pay between 75 cents and $10 — in cases of extreme congestion — to travel one way between Bellevue and Lynnwood.

The seven-member Transportation Commission already has held two public meetings on the new toll lanes. Members are expected to vote on rates and carpool size Wednesday in Kirkland.

Seattle Asks Citizens to "Hack the Commute"

So say your city is having some problems with transportation. For instance, maybe there's a lot of congestion and constant construction happening. What do you do? In Seattle, they're calling in the techies and asking them to " Hack the Commute."

Between 80 and 100 coders, designers, data analysts and entrepreneurs are expected to participate in the hackathon that goes from today through Sunday. The event is focused on coming up with new ideas and tools to address transportation issues while considering the growing population and need to accommodate disabled people and seniors.

There will be prizes for the best ideas and a "championship round." Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Inrix, Pronto, Socrata and Walk Score are providing funding and data about Seattle transportation.

This is a pretty big event and a big deal so I'm curious to see what ideas they come up with. I'll report back when I see the results.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

WSDOT Construction Work Starts Next Week

The weather is warm, the sun is out and you know what that means... road construction! The Washington State Department of Transportation has a few projects with work starting next week you should know about:

NSC/BNSF Railway Structures/Realignment & Ped/Bike Trail Extension- On Monday, Mar. 23, be alert for flaggers directing traffic on Freya Street and the southbound NSC roundabout off-ramp.  No other traffic impacts. Crews will be continuing work to construct two freeway mainline bridges over the BNSF tracks and two pedestrian bridges.  

I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades- Beginning Wednesday, Mar. 25, between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, be alert for eastbound and/or westbound shoulder and/or lane restrictions on I-90 between the Broadway and Argonne Interchanges plus in the vicinity of the Appleway/Country Vista interchange. Crews will be replacing or adjusting guardrail.

I-90/Sullivan Road Interchange- Monday, Mar. 23, through Thursday, Mar. 26, from 8 p.m. in the evening until as late as 7 a.m. the following morning, drivers on Sullivan and/or Indiana should be alert for lane restrictions with flaggers directing traffic due to concrete pavement repair work at the Sullivan/Indiana intersection.

Teens Report They Change Clothes, Study Behind the Wheel

Okay, this is something I didn't want to hear. Teen drivers may be more aware that texting and driving is dangerous than some adult drivers but apparently they're less concerned about driving and doing other activities. According to a new study, 27% of teens say they sometimes change clothes or shoes while driving and often put on makeup or do homework while behind the wheel.

The good news though is that the teens who responded reported that they text while driving at a lower rate than earlier studies. But still, changing clothes?? I'm not sure they have a good grasp on the term "distracted driving" in general.

Here's more on the study from NPR.

Seattle Proposes $900 Million Transportation Levy

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is asking his citizens for a big favor- to approve a $900 million tax to be spent over the next nine years on transportation improvements.

"Move Seattle" would replace the expiring $365 million "Bridging the Gap" (BTG) levy, which expires in 2015 and would cost taxpayers significantly more than BTG per year.

If funded, the program would reinforce bridges for earthquakes, repave arterials and sidewalks, complete some Safe Routes to School projects and some other major improvements.

All the projects planned for money are here. Plus how much more people will have to pay. The question is- will voters be willing to pay more for better transportation?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Portland's Car-Free Bridge

A car-free bridge? How does that work? Portland's new Tilikum Bridge is just being completed. It is
a multi-modal span that will serve buses, cyclists, pedestrians and trains — but no cars. It's got everything else though; a walking and biking path, transitways free of traffic congestion, sleek design, bike counters and even a scenic lookout.

Streetsblog has a preview of the bridge and all it's amenities before it even opens to the public.

Proposed Law Would Let Bicyclists Run Some Red Lights

A bill that would allow bicyclists to run certain red lights could get the green light from state lawmakers. Substitute Senate Bill 5438 seeks to address some of the broken or aging traffic signals that are unable to detect bicyclists, and as a result, often don't change from red to green when they're supposed to.

The bill went before the House Committee on Transportation Monday afternoon for a public hearing. It's scheduled for a vote in that committee tomorrow.

While most bicyclists at the hearing supported the change, a few said it might lead to safety issues of bicyclists thinking they can run any red light and pedestrians thinking they can walk against the light because bicyclists did.

The bill would require bicyclists to wait through one full cycle of the traffic signal before they're legally able to proceed through a red light, with caution. King 5 news has reaction from bicyclists on the bill.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

City of Spokane Kicks Off A Major Construction Season

The City of Spokane isn't wasting any time. They kicked off their construction season yesterday with work on a 900,000-gallon combined stormwater and wastewater storage facility near Northwest Boulevard. And it's just the first of $73 million in construction projects to get underway this year. Nearly four dozen projects and street levy work is planned citywide for 2015, according to a news conference held by Mayor David Condon yesterday.

The list includes eight combined sewer overflow (CSO) projects, six sidewalk projects, 17 street projects, three trail projects, six water projects and one storm sewer, restoration and bridge inspection project. Street maintenance work, which involves grind and overlay, crack seal and pothole repair, will also be ongoing throughout the season.

The first of the street levy projects approved by voters last fall begin this season. Those projects include the first phase of work on Rowan Avenue from Driscoll Boulevard to Monroe Street, Havana Street from 37th Avenue to Glenrose Road, the second phase Lincoln-Monroe from Eighth Avenue north, the first phase of Ray-Thor streets from 29th to Third avenues, and Indiana Avenue from Division to Perry streets. 

A complete map of Spokane City projects can be found here. SRTC will be releasing a map of all road construction for the entire county later this week so check back.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why Should West Siders Care About Transit in Spokane?

Speaking of STA (see previous post), the Seattle Transit Blog is looking at our side of the state for a series on the transit company's "Moving Forward" ten-year plan to improve public transit in the area.

But why would Seattlites compare about what we're doing over here? That's what the first article in the series focuses on and it cites some pretty impressive reasons, such as that Spokane is THE city for a large number of people in the northern United States. After all, it's the biggest urban area between Seattle and Minneapolis and therefore the one where many people come to shop and play.

For the rest of the reasons, check out the blog post.

STA Looking For Public Input on West Plains Transit Center

A visualization of a West Plains Transit Center.
One of the main components of Spokane Transit's "Moving Forward" plan is a West Plains transit
center at the Highway 902 exit along Interstate 90. This center would have 100 parking spots and better connections to locations in the West Plains.

STA is hosting a public meeting to get input from the public on how this could affect traffic in the area. It is 4-6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24 at the Irv Reed Event Center on McFarlane Road next to the economy parking lot at Spokane International Airport.

The Spokesman-Review has more on the services a West Plains Transit Center would provide.

City Council to Vote on Changes to Photo Red Funding

Spokane's City Council tonight will discuss Photo Red cameras and traffic calming projects. A portion of the money that comes in from tickets issued to people caught on camera running red lights goes to projects that make the streets safer, such as crosswalk lights, "bump outs' that extend the sidewalk into the street giving pedestrians a shorter distance to cross the street and other items. Tonight the council will vote on a resolution to include LED lighting, pruning of trees or bushes in the right of way, flashing School Zone signs and "street furniture" (that's what the notice said that I received- I'm thinking it refers to benches) as items the Photo Red funds could pay for. As always at Spokane City Council meetings, there is opportunity for members of the public to express their opinion so if you have input on this you'd like to share, feel free to attend the meeting at City Hall starting at 6 p.m.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pedestrian Hit, Killed in Spokane Valley

Sad news out of Spokane Valley where Spokane County sheriff’s deputies are investigating a crash that killed a pedestrian on Mission Avenue east of Progress Road this morning.

The Spokesman-Review reports that a male pedestrian was hit by an SUV around 5:30 a.m. A witness attempted to give the man CPR but neither he, deputies or paramedics were able to resuscitate him.

The driver has been cooperating with the investigation and deputies don't believe he was under the influence but a drug test is being done per protocol.

Workers Comp Claims Near $1M on Seattle Drilling Project

Don't get your hands near Bertha!
Not only has the giant drilling machine boring a tunnel under Seattle suffered some injuries, but so
have many workers on the project. Workers compensation claims on the project total almost a million dollars!

At least 117 workers have been injured working on the Alaskan Way Viaduct project from 2012 to mid-2014.  Ouch. Literally. The injuries run the gamut from chemical burns to crushed hands. But why so many hurt workers? Bertha herself (the drill used on the project) caused one of the injuries, but one group is blaming the contractor.

Roads & Bridges has more on why some say the company doesn't have a "culture of safety."

Fort Lauderdale to Use First Camera Based Parking Guidance System

Parking at the airport- kind of a pain right? It seems like you're always in a hurry and you pull up to this massive parking area with no idea where there are going to be open spots. Especially at some of the major airports where open spots are few and far between.

Florida's Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport is taking a new strategy to get people to parking quicker, by using a new camera-based parking guidance system.

When a driver arrives, they will be guided to the nearest available empty parking spot using an electronic sign that says what spots are free. From there, LED lights installed at the center of the driveway will be lit green for an open space or red for a taken space.

Holy cow, that's a lot of parking spaces to monitor! So how does the system keep everything straight?

Miami CBS Local takes a look at the newest development in airport parking.

Traffic Cameras Used for One Thing and One Thing Only- Monitoring Traffic

Following the disappearance of a Pennsylvania woman last week, and the discovery of her car abandoned along a highway, some people are asking why investigators didn't use highway traffic cameras to try to track her. CBS Philly reports that traffic engineers for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation say it's because those cameras are specifically for monitoring traffic flow. 

And I get that. The Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) is located within the SRTC office (see picture). There are operators who sit in the SRTMC all day and watch traffic, just to make sure it's moving like it should be and to dispatch emergency services when needed. But they don't record the cameras nor archive video. However, they get a LOT of calls from people wanting video to support their case when pulled over by law enforcement or insurance companies and lawyers trying to prove who hit who in the case of collisions.

Sorry folks, not gonna happen. The cameras are not only not meant for this use, but there's not the server space, equipment or staffing available to archive video. So if you were in a traffic accident, or some other kind of incident, where you noticed a traffic camera nearby, it's not going to help your case.

Downtown Streets To Close For Parade Tomorrow

If you're planning to get your Irish on tomorrow, the 2015 St. Patrick's Day parade begins at noon in downtown Spokane. The Staging area around the Arena from Boone to North River drive and Howard to Calispel will be closed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The parking meters in that area will be bagged on tonight at 5 p.m. Downtown closures begin at 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Spokane Falls and Main Avenue from Bernard to Post will be closed with the parking meters bagged Friday night at 5 p.m.

The River Park Garage and Parkade will be open and have access. Click the map to view it full size.

Map courtesy of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Speed Limit Reduction Considered For Part of Inland Empire Way

A side effect of the Cheney-Spokane Road and SR-195 interchange that opened last year? less traffic on part of Inland Empire Way. Another unintended impact? Spokane's City Council is talking about lowering the speed limit on that section,
from 23rd Avenue south.

The Spokesman-Review's "Getting There" blog has the details.

IDOT Not Joking With Their Signs- Or Are They?

The Iowa Department of Transportation is getting sassy- to get your attention. They're putting irreverent signs (like the one to the right)
on the interstate near Sioux City, in the name of safety.

Another sign parodies the pop song "It's All About That Bass," reading “It’s all about the belt … the belt … just click it.” The department even filmed a video parody of the song.

The signs received notable attention in October when actor George Takei, who portrayed Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek,” shared an IDOT sign on Facebook that said, “Get your head out of your apps.” Here's more on them from the Sioux City Journal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Free Ride Home From St. Patrick's Day Festivities

Law Enforcement will be conducting DUI patrols in Spokane County during this upcoming St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The Spokane County Target Zero Task Force is partnering with Uber, the app that connects riders and drivers, to offer free rides to new users and discounted rides to current users.   

New Uber users can take advantage of this Uber promotion by downloading the Uber app (get.uber.com/go) and inputting the promo code SPOSAFE1.  Then enjoy a safe Uber ride home free of charge up to $25. 

Existing Uber users can input the promo code SPORIDE1 to get up to two rides at 20% off between 10AM March 14, 2015 and 3AM March 15, 2015—just in time for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spokane Asks To Be Involved In Talks About Proposed Vancouver Oil Terminal

A proposal to open a terminal in Vancouver, WA to handle oil shipped rail is getting attention by local officials.

The City of Spokane is filing a petition for intervention, effectively requesting a "seat at the table" in talks regarding the proposed 32-acre terminal in Washougal. Spokane officials are interested in the project because trains headed to the terminal carrying oil would pass through our City. Emergencies such as derailments or fires could be serious threats to the area. Others are worried about environmental issues as a result.

The Spokesman-Review has more on the proposed terminal and how lawmakers in our area are getting involved.

Bus Stop Improvement Project

Photo courtesy of the Transit 509 blog.
Does this picture look familiar? Some would say no, because the sidewalk is actually somewhat shoveled near the bus stop. In many areas, bus stops aren't easy to get to in winter when walks either aren't shoveled or used to store snow that is plowed up.

Spokane Transit is working on a project to address ongoing issues surrounding bus stop access, signs and poles, shelters, benches and other bus stop features.  As well as the need for better defined standards, policies and coordination with partner jurisdictions in these areas.  

If you would like a presentation and an opportunity to provide feedback on the project at your neighborhood meeting please contact Kathleen Weinand at kweinand@spokanetransity.com or 509-325-6055.

Parking Open House

Parking- it's always a hot issue. Especially in certain neighborhoods. The City of Spokane is hosting an open house this week about a proposal to eliminate certain parking requirements in areas of Spokane zoned as Neighborhood Retail (NR).

The Spokane City Plan Commission is looking for feedback on the proposed update to neighborhood retail parking standards. Currently, the 72 small NR commercial areas within the city follow the same parking standards that other commercially zoned properties are required to follow.  Providing parking can be a costly hurdle for small neighborhood businesses, so changes were proposed to help balance the need for parking while encouraging the revitalization of small scale businesses serving the neighborhoods. Visit the project page at SpokaneCity.org to learn more, then attend the open house if interested. The info is below.

WHAT:   Open House: Neighborhood Retail Parking Standards Update
WHEN:   Wednesday, March 11 (6-8 p.m.)
WHERE: City Hall (Chase Gallery, lower level)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mark Your Calendar for the 4th Annual Spokane Bike Swap

Another sure sign of spring (see previous post) is that that the 4th annual Spokane Bike Swap is right around the corner. The event is April 11 and 12 this year at the Spokane County Fairgrounds.

Get ready for bicycling by buying a new bicycle or other biking gear. Ten local bike shops and over 50 exhibitors will be participating this year, in addition to the hundreds of consignment bikes you can pick from.

 Kids helmets will be given away with every kids bike sold in the bike corral and there will be bike maintenance classes, Mountain bike classes.

 On Sunday, admission is buy one, get one free for the first 250 people through the door. we are offering a buy 1 get 1 in free admission. Also, there will be auction items to bid on so mark your calendars!

Work Resumes Monday On Appleway Trail in Spokane Valley

A sure sign of spring? Crews will resume construction of the Appleway Trail in Spokane Valley between University and Pines on Monday, March 9, with final touches on the project expected around the end of May.

The twelve-foot wide asphalt pathway completed last fall is already attracting walkers and bicyclists.  Over the next few months, lighting and landscaping will be added as well as benches.  The entry plaza to be constructed at University will also include seating areas, providing a gathering place for trail users.

Safety improvements including crosswalks and sidewalk ramps will be added at Bowdish Road, Union Road, and Robie Road where they intersect with the Trail. 

In addition to connecting neighborhoods south of the Trail with commercial areas to its north, the Appleway Trail provides an east-west route away from busy Sprague traffic for pedestrians, bicyclists, and those using other non-motorized means of transportation.

Funding has already been secured for design and construction of the next segment of the Trail between Pines and Evergreen in 2017/2018.

What Would Convince You to Drive Less?

We've recently completed an update to the Regional Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) Plan and are looking for input on it. The CTR Plan consists of goals and policies, facility and service improvements, and marketing strategies aimed at reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) over the next four years through Travel Demand Management (TDM) strategies. 

TDM are strategies and policies to reduce motor vehicle travel demand (specifically for drive-alone trips). Managing demand is a cost-effective alternative to building new roads or adding lanes to existing roadways. It also cuts down on wear and tear on local streets by reducing the number of vehicles using them, reduces environmental issues caused by pollution created by automobiles, and can have positive health impacts for those who choose to walk or bicycle instead of drive.

Examples of TDM strategies include telecommuting, car and vanpooling, providing bicycle and pedestrian facilities and supplying transit subsidies such as bus passes. Some sample strategies included in the CTR Plan to reduce VMT include:

  • Implementation of Spokane Transit Authority’s (STA’s) Smart Bus program that will provide real-time location and travel information for buses throughout the STA network. 
  • Adding vehicles to STA’s vanpool fleet to accommodate new and additional vanpool riders.
  • Implementation of the Spokane Regional Health District’s marketing initiative WALK.BIKE.BUS, intended to get people to use sustainable travel alternatives for non-work trips.
  • Creation and implementation of policy, planning, and zoning changes by all regional jurisdictions participating in the CTR Program in support of transit, walking, and bicycling.

You can check out the CTR Plan (don't be scared- the update is only a handful of pages) on the SRTC website at www.srtc.org. A public comment period for the plan starts Thursday, March 5, 2015. All comments must be received by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, 2015. Comments can be submitted by emailing contact.srtc@srtc.org, or by mail to SRTC at 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA, or by calling (509) 343-6370.

Learn About Plans for Downtown Spokane Bike Lanes

Mark your calendars. The City of Spokane is hosting an Open House for the second phase of work on the Downtown Bicycle Network. 

The project will add bike lanes on Spokane Falls Boulevard from Division Street to Post Street and on Main Avenue from Howard Street to Pine Street.  Main Street will be restriped to three lanes for vehicular travel.

More info at the meeting, plus a chance to provide your thoughts and feedback on it. 

It's next Tuesday, March 10 from 5-7 p.m. in the lobby of the Community Building, 35 W. Main Street.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Snoqualmie Project Called "Succesful Adaptation" by National Magazine

Improvements made to Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass in the past few years have no doubt been an inconvenience to some that got stuck waiting for blasting or other construction activities, but all-in-all, it's being hailed as a success story by the engineering community, and being called "a succesful adaptation" by Roads and Bridges magazine.

The magazine says crews did a great job of phasing the project to be the least disruptive to traffic as possible, found ways around physical barriers such as the mountain looming above the freeway, and took extreme mountain pass weather in stride.

Here's the story if you want to check it out.

Your Ideas Needed for the Sprague and Barker Intersection

Planning for future growth, the City of Spokane Valley is making improvements to the intersection of Barker Road and Sprague Avenue. Staff is looking for your input on what should be done to this intersection.

Some possibilities- Install a traffic signal. Put in a roundabout. Pedestrians and bicycle facilities. Anything else you think is important.

Help design this project by joining The City of Spokane Valley staff for a public open house on Wednesday, March 11 from 6-7 p.m. at Greenacres Middle School, 17409 E. Sprague Avenue.

An overview of the project will be presented at 6:15 pm, followed by time for community members to share ideas, questions, comments, and concerns.

While the project that results from this effort is not yet funded, the City wants to have a plan in place to be prepared for application when funding opportunities become available. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Gas Tax Increase Passes State Senate

A controversial package of taxes and fees which would raise gas taxes by almost 12 cents over three years passed the Senate Monday on a 27-22 vote.

By a much larger margin, senators then approved a list of $15 billion worth of projects those taxes and fees would support. Almost $1 billion of them are in the Spokane area.

The bill now goes to the House.

The Spokesman-Review looks at the projects on the table and how local legislators voted.

WSDOT Looking For Input on Proposed Improvements to The Palouse and Coulee City Rail System

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is planning some improvements to
the Palouse and Coulee City (PCC) Rail system, as part of an effort to support area farmers, and is looking for input on them.

The draft PCC Rail System Strategic Plan highlights the benefits of the rail system and lists recommended maintenance and repair projects and polices to boost farm-to-market rail transportation.

The plan indicates that private and public investments in the rail system have not kept pace with preservation and maintenance needs. Trains must run at slower speeds in some areas due to rail conditions. The strategic plan includes a list of capital-project priorities, including several that use lowest-cost options to maximize investments.

The 297-mile PCC rail line consists of three branch lines that carry freight through Spokane, Lincoln, Grant and Whitman counties. Shippers distribute commodities across the rail system to and from hubs of cross-country railroads. The PCC rail system carried 20 percent of state-grown wheat in 2013, saving 37,000 truckload trips on Washington state roadways.

Comments on the draft plan will be taken until Tuesday, March 31.  Comment forms are available online and may be submitted through the link or emailed to freight@wsdot.wa.gov.

Once finalized, the plan will be used to help develop future funding, policy and planning goals.

Ford Branching Out Into... Bicycles?

Ford and... bicycles? Yep, the car company is building a bike. Not just any bike though- bikes with options such as vibrating navigation on the handlebars, "smart routing" that even uses public transit information and sensors that fire up an electric pedal assistance system to help when you're running out of pedal power. In other words, cool, high-end bikes.

But why is Ford branching out from what it knows? A company vice president says it's part of the company's larger "Smart Mobility Plan" looking at connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, autonomous vehicles, and big data.

Business Insider has the full story.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Do Fewer Lanes Translate to More Safety?

Traffic on the Monroe Street hill.
I've heard from several people, including some who work at or own businesses on Monroe Street, concerned about the "road diet" planned for Monroe between Indiana and the top of the Monroe hill.

A road diet reduces lanes by re-striping the roadway to make more room for pedestrians, bicyclists and parking, and increasing safety by slowing traffic. It generally takes a four-lane road down to one lane in each direction with a turn lane in the middle, wider parking spaces on the side and wider sidewalks or sometimes bike lanes.

East Sprague got a road diet last year and Broadway Avenue in Spokane Valley in 2010. Several more are planned in both the City of Spokane and Spokane Valley in the near future.

While engineers love the road diet, is it just like any other fad diet? They're proving to be controversial in some areas. For instance, the scheduled North Monroe road diet has some people worried about traffic backups, getting delayed behind buses, and customers having a hard time accessing businesses. Valid concerns or an aversion to change? The Spokesman-Review takes an in-depth look at the history of four-lane roads, the success rate of existing road diets and plans for more in our area.

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.