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Getting There: Spokane drivers get pat on back

Mon., July 7, 2008, midnight

Don’t park that gas guzzler with the funky alignment from Spokane’s potholes just yet.

According to Men’s Health magazine, Spokane ranks No. 8 in the nation for what it calls the “greenest drivers” in America. And the gridlock capital of the Northwest, Seattle, is No. 1.

The study graded 100 major cities in an effort to find the drivers who most minimized their emissions versus the cities where drivers guzzled the most gas. Seattle rated the best, with Portland third. At the other end of the scale, Arlington, Texas, scored worst with Yonkers, N.Y., and El Paso, Texas, just above.

The only Idaho city on the list was Boise, which ranked No. 36.

“They took a look at a whole host of data,” said Emily O’Brien, the media contact for the article featured in the magazine’s July/August issue. “Spokane and Seattle are really above par at everything they looked at.”

The study compared air quality, vehicle efficiency and how often commuters use mass transit, O’Brien said.

The study used information from the National Transit Database, the American Lung Association, the Energy Information Administration, the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University and SimplyMap, she said.

“They did a very comprehensive data analysis,” said O’Brien, who admitted she has never driven in either Washington city.

Skills to avoid kills

A seminar designed to help young drivers learn how to react when confronted by emergencies will be held Saturday and Sunday at Spokane Community College, at Mission Avenue and Greene Street.

“This is not about getting a license. Driving schools are good about teaching the rules of the road, but they don’t have the capacity to teach about getting through an emergency,” said organizer Danny Nelson.

The course, which costs $169 per youth driver and parent, is being coordinated in conjunction with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

“Teen drivers have the least amount of skill at avoiding crashes,” Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said in a news release. “We believe this course will give them safe driving tools that they would only develop after years on the road.”

Several car dealerships are participating so that young drivers do not need to bring their own cars, Nelson said. All driving will be done under the direction of deputies, and emergency maneuvers will be conducted in a controlled environment.

“People will have a great time, and it will teach them the skills that will save their lives,” Nelson said.

Parents and youth drivers interested in participating should register at www.Teen The two-day event has room for 200 participants.

Troubled bridge over waters

A major construction project will start today: Crews will close the Barker Road Bridge over the Spokane River as work begins on a new bridge, Spokane Valley spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch said in a news release. Work is not expected to be completed until early 2010.

“The bridge is just too narrow for traffic and work crews to share the limited space,” project manager Ken Knutson said in the release.

Detours will direct traffic to Sullivan Road. However, the river is expected to remain open for recreational use during times when crews aren’t working. Temporary closures may be necessary during certain phases of the work, Branch said.

“Keeping the area safe for the community is one of our top priorities,” Knutson said. “But we wanted to keep the river itself open for recreational use as much as possible.”

The construction also will close the portion of the Centennial Trail that runs below the bridge. Trail users will be rerouted to Montgomery Avenue and Riverway Street. As a result, city officials ask that commuters along those routes pay closer attention to pedestrians and cyclists.

More troubled bridges

The Washington state Department of Transportation will execute a contract today giving a contractor about 50 working days to repair the bridge on U.S. Highway 2 over Deep Creek, assistant project engineer Mark Allen said.

“They could start work as early as the 14th,” Allen said. “Traffic will be restricted to one lane each way with a temporary traffic signal.” Crews will replace the bridge rail and repair the concrete approaches to the bridge, located about two miles west of Fairchild Air Force Base.

“We haven’t done the signal analysis yet. But delays will depend on how much traffic is out there,” Allen said.

In downtown Spokane, commuters can expect delays on the Division Street Bridge as crews start working this week to repair bridge joints.

The joints, steel teeth that allow the bridge to expand and contract in hot and cold weather, are sticking up above the roadway, Allen said.

“The snowplows are getting caught on those steel expansion joints,” Allen said. “The crews will replace them and put in a product to raise up the surface of the roadway to avoid damaging the snowplows.”

As a result of the work, crews on Tuesday and Wednesday will reduce northbound Division Street to two lanes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Then on Thursday, crews will reduce southbound traffic to two lanes during the same time period.

Over the weekend, crews will reduce traffic in both directions to one lane from 11:30 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday.

Spokane Falls obstructions

City crews have been reducing lanes of southbound Washington Street this past week at Spokane Falls Boulevard in preparation for work that should begin today.

As a result of the grinding and overlay work, crews will shut down two of the four lanes of Spokane Falls Boulevard from Washington to Browne streets, city streets spokeswoman Ann Deasy said.

When one half of the roadway is done, they will close the lanes on the other side, she said. The project should be complete sometime in mid-August, she said.

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