September 24, 2007 in City

Getting There: Area projects may put hole in your wallet

Staff writer
 
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Background and the latest updates

Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a free ride. There’s no such thing as a free road, either.

That was the persistent refrain last week at a two-day Inland Northwest transportation summit in Spokane.

Speaker after speaker spoke of the promise of improving the road and highway system and the dismal prospects for finding enough federal or state funds.

In other words: If you want the North Spokane Corridor to be completed south to Interstate 90, pony up.

“The message is we’re pretty much on our own,” said state Rep. Lynn Schindler, R-Spokane Valley, of building more of the North Spokane Corridor than the portion from Francis to Wandermere under construction now.

“We need the public in Spokane to be ready and willing to step up to the plate to do certain things.”

Those things would likely include paying regional taxes for local projects.

Both state and federal speakers at the event said the federal government’s commitment to transportation funding has been steadily declining, and states like Washington and Idaho don’t have enough to keep up with demand.

Idaho state Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, said it would cost the state $3 billion to complete 13 major corridors identified as needing correction. The state has enough to complete two.

He pointed to public-private partnerships, like the deal for retailer Cabela’s to pay for an Interstate 90 interchange in Post Falls as a way to get projects done. Cabela’s will be refunded 65 percent of the sales tax it collects until its investment in the interchange is recouped.

Some, like state Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, blame Puget Sound bias, saying Spokane doesn’t get its fair share of state gas tax revenues.

But West Side drivers are hurting, too. They’ll vote in November on a three-county, $47 billion regional road and transit tax package that would pay a local share for projects to expand Sound Transit light rail, and improve roads and highways. People there would pay for it through a combination of sales and motor vehicle excise tax increases.

Such a funding mechanism isn’t possible in the Inland Northwest now, but it could be if people here push state lawmakers to approve legislation to create a regional transportation investment district.

Four new plate choices

Idahoans can now tout their support for breast cancer patients, historic preservation, the National Rifle Association or the Elks’ rehabilitation hospital in Boise.

All four new specialty license plates will be unveiled at a news conference in Boise Tuesday.

The state also will announce a new plate manufacturing process.

Each specialty plate costs $35 more than standard plate fees the first year, then $25 more than standard fees with each renewal. Part of the extra money goes to the sponsors, although the NRA is turning its share back over to the state, said Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Mel Coulter.

Crosswalk safety

Spokane police are cracking down on motorists who fail to yield for pedestrians and on pedestrians who illegally cross the street.

In the first half of the year, 75 pedestrians were hit by automobiles in the city. Two people died in those collisions.

Road open

Now open for driving: Ash Street and Southeast Boulevard.

Everyone give a cheer.

You may be seated

No more standing in line like cattle. That’s the promise of Southwest Airlines, which will start a new seating policy in November.

The airline still plans to offer open seating, but instead of having just three boarding groups, each group will be further subdivided into a numbered queue ordered by when passengers check in.

Getting There never really understood why people in the “A” group would line up a half-hour or more early. That group always got good seats. Much of the “B” group has also been able to snag a coveted aisle or window seat.

Of course, even with the new system, the “C” group will still stand for the same thing – center seat.

Slow going

Interstate 90

“The eastbound I-90 on-ramp at Altamont Street is closed from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday. Eastbound I-90 traffic will also be reduced at that location to two lanes at that time. Then on Wednesday, eastbound I-90 will be reduced to two lanes near Havana Street.

Downtown

“Monroe Street is reduced to one lane in each direction on the north end of the bridge.

“In Browne’s Addition, First Avenue is closed from Maple Street to Poplar Street. Riverside Avenue is closed from Hemlock Street to the Marne Bridge. The intersection of Riverside Avenue and Hemlock Street is closed through Thursday.

North Spokane

“Crestline Street is reduced to one lane in each direction from North Foothills Drive/Euclid Avenue to Wellesley Avenue.

“Expect traffic restrictions on eastbound Wellesley Avenue between Division and Lidgerwood streets.

“The intersection of Freya Street and Euclid Avenue is closed until Friday.

Spokane Valley

“Broadway Avenue is closed from Moore Street to Conklin Road until Oct. 5.

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