July 21, 2008 in City

Downtown plan open for comment

Amy Cannata
 

Fixing downtown Spokane transportation problems and preventing them from worsening will take a host of street, pedestrian, public transportation, bicycle and parking improvements costing millions of dollars, according to a recently released study.

The draft plan, ordered by the city of Spokane and coordinated by consultant DKS Associates, is the product of input from city staff, the Washington State Department of Transportation, Spokane Transit Authority and the public. Now the city is asking for public comment on the result.

Some recommendations, such as improving pedestrian crossings and traffic signal timing, will likely meet with public approval. Others – increasing metered parking near the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Gonzaga University and other areas on the west end of downtown, removing parking on Monroe Street from the bridge to Boone Avenue, and turning Wall Street (now partially dedicated to pedestrians) into a two-way street from Spokane Falls Boulevard to Fifth Avenue – could prove to be controversial.

“There’s going to be a lot of tweaking,” said Eldon Brown, acting director of the city’s Engineering Services Department.

Other suggestions include adding angled parking on low traffic volume streets, adding bicycle lanes and pursuing a downtown circulator, like a streetcar system, to reduce vehicle trips within downtown. A key question about the study’s proposed projects: How does the city pay for it all?

Brown said that once a transportation plan is adopted and incorporated into Spokane’s comprehensive plan, staff can begin looking for grants and other ways to pay for projects.

“Some of these things take years,” he said.

One potential weakness is that the draft plan makes several determinations based on the completion of the North Spokane Corridor to Interstate 90. At this time the state has no money to pay for that project any farther south than Francis Avenue. Several high-profile Puget Sound area projects have the potential to strap the Washington State Department of Transportation for years, and funding continues to get tighter.

Washington state Sen. Chris Marr said the revenue environment is “bleak.”

“At the same time there is some capacity in the budget and some of us are looking at strategies,” he said.

Marr said it may be possible to build a smaller, more modest roadway in anticipation of demand for a more freeway-like corridor in the future. “The most costly element is how we get from Trent to I-90.”

Citizens can view the plan at City Hall or online at www.spokaneengineering.org. Comments will be accepted until Aug. 8, and should be e-mailed to DKSTransportationStudy @spokanecity.org.

Trash talk

The Washington State Patrol and Washington Department of Ecology are reminding motorists that they face hefty fines if they are caught littering.

Fines start at $103 for a food or beverage container, jump to $216 for unsecured loads and reach a whopping $1,025 for throwing out a lit cigarette.

Unsecured loads contribute heavily to trash alongside highways. According to Megan Warfield, Ecology’s litter programs coordinator, studies have shown that uncovered, garbage filled pickups and other unsecured loads can account for as much as 50 percent of roadside litter.

As for lit cigarettes, the Washington state Department of Transportation responds to at least 40 roadside fires each year.

“The big thing for summer is people need to know cigarette butts are litter and they do cause fires and they should keep them in their car ashtrays,” Warfield said.

Anyone who sees a litter bug is encouraged to call 866-LITTER-1.

Aviation highlights

Flight International magazine recently released its list of the top 100 moments, inventions, people and more in aviation.

Not surprisingly, landing on the moon topped the list, followed by creation of the Boeing 747, the Wright Brothers, the Concorde and the Rolls-Royce Merlin plane engine.

Hmm  …  most of us would cheer these days simply for an on-time flight that isn’t oversold and a seatback pocket devoid of crumbs and used tissues.

Contaminated vehicles

The Washington Department of Licensing is working with health departments to institute a law prohibiting the sale of motor vehicles and boats that have been contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

The law mandates titles for those vehicles be marked “contaminated.”

“The main thing they’ll use this for is mobile methamphetamine labs. We want to make sure those don’t go back on the market,” said Department of Licensing spokesman Brad Benfield.

Properly decontaminated vehicles also will have their titles marked so potential buyers know what they’re getting.

Fair warnings

Idaho law enforcement officers are on the lookout this week for aggressive drivers as part of an operation funded by the state Transportation Department. Officers will be ticketing drivers for speeding, tailgating, running stop signs and illegal passing.

In Spokane County, Spokane Valley Police and Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies will cite drivers Wednesday afternoon if they fail to move over for emergency vehicles stopped on Appleway Avenue and Trent Avenue.

Washington state law mandates that drivers on multilane roads move over one lane when an emergency vehicle is stopped at the side of the road with its lights activated. The ticket for breaking that law is $124.

Geiger Spur

Spokane County and Washington state Department of Transportation officials will mark the beginning of work on the Geiger Spur today with a groundbreaking ceremony on McFarlane Road east of Fairchild Air Force Base and west of Craig Road.

The $6.8 million Geiger Spur project will connect the rail line to the former Palouse River and Coulee City line. Both will then connect to BNSF’s main line in Airway Heights, enabling industrial users to ship goods to and from their West Plains facilities.

The public is invited to the 10 a.m. groundbreaking as well as an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. at Sunset Elementary, 12824 W. 12th Ave.

Slow going

Interstate 90

The eastbound I-90 off-ramp at Hamilton Street will be reduced to one lane during the day Tuesday.

Westbound I-90 will be reduced to two lanes near Hamilton and the Perry Street curves Thursday for bridge work.

Downtown Spokane

Spokane Falls Boulevard is reduced to one lane in the vicinity of the Spokane Convention Center.

North Spokane

Maple Street is closed from the Maple Street Bridge to Northwest Boulevard, with Northwest Boulevard reduced to one lane from Walnut to Oak.

Belt Street is closed from August Avenue to Montgomery Avenue.

Division Street traffic may be impacted from Foothills Drive to Houston Avenue at night while crews install fiber optic cable.

Freya Street is reduced to one lane in each direction from Alki to Springfield.

Hamilton Street will have intermittent lane closures from Trent to Sharp.

Wall Street has lane restrictions from Country Homes Boulevard to Whitworth Drive.

Mt. Spokane Park Drive is under construction, with the roadway closed past milepost 15 – the park gate.

Denison Chattaroy Road is closed from Highway 2 to North Road.

South Spokane

Third Avenue from Magnolia to Ray, Fourth Avenue from Magnolia to Regal, Crestline from Third to Fifth, and Magnolia and Regal from Third to Fifth are under construction. Regal Street will close from Third to Fifth sometime this week.

Expect lane restrictions on 37th Avenue between Havana and Freya.

Spokane Valley

Appleway Avenue is reduced to one lane in each direction at Barker Road.

The Centennial Trail is closed at the Barker Road Bridge.

Dishman-Mica may have lane restrictions between Appleway and 16th Avenue.

Amy Cannata can be reached at (509) 385-3228 or amyc@spokesman.com.


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