The only thing more numerous than snowflakes this winter appears to be the number of opinions and comments from residents about the state of road conditions in and around Spokane.
While residents from Coeur d’Alene to the West Plains have several pothole hotlines they can call, some area officials are seeking a more interactive way to get information from those they serve.
Thus, today begins the first online effort to get information from people who would rather type their concerns than appear at a public meeting. Both the Spokane Regional Transportation Council and the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization will launch blogs where residents can get information on transportation issues and provide feedback, said Staci Lehman, spokeswoman for the SRTC.
“There is more demand for interaction between the public and government agencies,” Lehman said. “More and more we are being asked by the federal government to make as much of a good-faith effort as we can to reach out to the public.”
Snow removal and the abysmal state of streets prompted Spokane Mayor Mary Verner last week to add $500,000 to the budget for fixing potholes. She received input from everybody from residents, street crews and City Council members, she said.
“I have been experiencing, feeling and running into the potholes myself,” Verner said. “It was obvious that we had a problem and had to be more aggressive.”
Most of the new money will be added to the existing $800,000 budget to purchase asphalt. The city hopes to do the work with existing equipment and employees, she said.
“The street crews said the number of potholes that had been reported and needed to be filled is higher than they have seen,” Verner said. “We wanted to get that order in early with so many others wanting asphalt this year.”
Snow removal and potholes won’t be the only topics discussed on the new blogs, Lehman said.
“We have both subjects on the blogs, but it’s not centered on those subjects,” she said.
“We will take current events and anything coming up and post them. We will also have links to articles … and ask for opinions. It will also include information about buses, bikes and pedestrian issues.”
Both blogs will officially launch at about 8:30 a.m., she said.
Glenn Miles, transportation manager for the SRTC, said residents can use the blogs to learn about upcoming construction projects or the budgets of area transportation agencies.
“As more and more people get interested in using blogs for information, we wanted to create one more way to find out about what is going on in transportation,” Miles said. “It’s less formal than a public hearing.”
“We will be monitoring it daily,” Lehman said.
“We are a government agency also, so we will have to decide how we will manage it after it takes off.”
Miles said it can only help for government officials to get more information regarding transportation issues.
“We will be able to say, ‘That’s a good comment. Let’s take a look at it,’ ” he said.
Walkers and bikers beware
Speaking of online information, the Spokane Regional Transportation Council has updated statistics showing the number of vehicle-versus-bike or -pedestrian collisions in Spokane County between 2001 and 2007.
To view that information, go to www.srtc.org and click on the “Bicycle/Pedestrian Resources” link. More links will appear that give statistics about the 1,901 reported collisions between vehicles and pedestrians or bikers.
Another link provides a map of the same information about pedestrian and bike collisions between 2002 and 2005.
“You can see if any of those trouble areas are on your regular routes,” Lehman said, “so you can be particularly careful in those areas. If there have been a lot of people hit, you may want to change your route.”
The information on pedestrians is of particular interest following two collisions this month in downtown Spokane that left two people in critical condition and another with several broken bones.
The map shows those instances where pedestrians were killed or suffered serious injuries.
“Just seeing some of these colors on the map, it’s getting kind of scary out there,” Lehman said.
More holes to fill
The city of Spokane Valley announced last Thursday that city crews have begun repairing potholes left over from this year’s cycle of freezing and thawing that has cracked many area streets.
“City crews and contractors are making temporary repairs to minimize additional damage until permanent repairs can be made when asphalt plants open in the spring,” city spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch said in a press release.
Spokane Valley residents can report potholes at (509) 921-1000 or by visiting the city’s Web site at www.spokanevalley.org and clicking on the “Report a Pothole” link under “Hot Topics.”
Residents should provide the location of the pothole, including the nearest street, cross streets and the lane of travel, Branch said.