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Cleaner commute options laid out

Cars aren’t the most environmentally friendly devices.

They use energy, spew pollution and encourage us to pack on the pounds by reducing exercise. So in the spirit of Earth Day on Saturday, this week’s Getting There will focus on ways to make getting around the Inland Northwest healthier for you and the natural world.

Out with the bad

The recent mercury contamination at Lake City High School pointed out the hazards of this material, but did you know that some cars contain mercury switches?

One switch can contaminate a 20-acre lake.

AAA Washington/Inland is offering free mercury switch removal and replacement with safer switches this week and next.

Most American cars manufactured before 2001 and European cars built before 1992 have mercury switches. Check the news and safety section of to see if your car has such a switch.

Participating repair facilities include four Divine’s Auto Repair locations in Spokane and Sunset Motors in Coeur d’Alene. Call ahead for an appointment.

The shops will also recycle car batteries.

And while you’re at it, consider checking for fluid leaks. Dripping oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze not only costs you money and hurts your vehicle, it also harms plants, animals and the aquifer.

Viaduct planning

Now may be a good time for downtown Spokane workers to start planning for alternative transportation during this summer’s Washington State Department of Transportation viaduct rehabilitation project on I-90 downtown.

Here are some options:

Carpool – You can register at to find a commute partner.

Van pool – Spokane Transit Authority arranges van pools from as far as Coeur d’Alene and Deer Park. Costs are based on the number of riders and mileage. Call (509) 325-6048 for more information.

Take the bus – With a bus hub downtown, finding a route shouldn’t be too hard. Check out the STA Web site at or call (509) 328-RIDE for more information.

Telecommute – If you can work from home without being distracted by dirty dishes, see if your boss will let you do so one or more days a week.

Remember, some employers offer subsidies or perks to employees using alternative transportation.

If you abandon single-occupancy-vehicle travel during the construction season, that will reduce congestion for others, and stress for you. You may find you like it so much that you stick with it after the construction is over.

Two-wheel it

Bike commuting is a great way to get your daily exercise and help the environment.

And the city of Spokane just made one North Side route easier.

Buckeye Avenue was converted to a three-lane road with striped bike lanes to make it safer for bicyclists.

The Spokane Bicycle Club offers a Bike Buddy program that pairs up people new to bike commuting with those who have experience. You can request a bike mentor by e-mailing

For more information about Coeur d’Alene’s Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Committee, call (208) 769-2348.

Slow going

Work begins today on a 2004 street bond project to restore the southbound leg of Haven Street through Hillyard. Haven will be closed from southbound Market to northbound Market. All side streets will be closed during work hours. Local access will be provided during non-work hours for the side streets.

Wellesley Avenue is restricted to one lane in each direction near Haven Street.

Work to rehabilitate 29th Avenue is under way in Spokane between Southeast Boulevard and Grand Boulevard. Traffic is reduced to one lane in each direction, and traffic is unable to enter or exit Perry at 29th. Detours will be in place.

Sunset Boulevard is closed at Third Avenue and detoured via Fourth Avenue, and Inland Empire Way is closed and detoured via Sixth and Seventh avenues for Spokane’s west side water main project.

Trent Avenue traffic may be bogged down near Hamilton where the curb lanes will be closed at times for road work.

Magnolia Street is being repaved between Nebraska Avenue and Central Avenue. No through traffic.

Crack-sealing on Northwest Boulevard between Monroe and Maple streets could delay traffic because up to two lanes may be closed at times.

Five Mile Prairie residents, business owners and others who have concerns about traffic and street improvement issues in the neighborhood are invited to bring questions or comments to the “Five Mile Prairie Summit” on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Five Mile Prairie Grange Hall.

Spokane street sweeping will be under way this week from Ash Street on the west to “A” Street on the east and between Francis Avenue on the south and Lincoln Road on the north; from Division on the west to Nevada on the east and between Euclid on the south and Wellesley on the north; and from Havana on the east to Ray/Thor on the west and between Hartson Avenue on the north and 29th Avenue on the south.

Please move cars off the street.

Work is under way on the North Spokane Corridor and the Gerlach to Wandermere grading project. Flaggers will direct traffic as trucks cross Perry and Farwell roads.

In Idaho, Prairie Avenue remains under construction between Ramsey and Huetter.

The Government Way bridge is closed to traffic.

A short detour is in place at the Seltice Way bridge west of Northwest Boulevard.