November 30, 2009 in City

Wildlife warnings go infrared

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Photo courtesy of ITD photo

Idaho Transportation Department inspector Mike Cameron stands next to the new wildlife warning system on U.S. 95 at Moscow Mountain. Photo courtesy of ITD
(Full-size photo)

Idaho transportation officials think they’ve come up with a way to keep motorists and moose apart on a mountainous stretch of U.S. Highway 95 north of Moscow.

A solar-powered infrared detection system was installed this fall along a 2,200-foot section of the highway on Steakhouse Hill on the west side of Moscow Mountain.

At an elevation of 3,050 feet, the area is known for its migrating wildlife.

When deer or moose pass through the infrared beam, a flashing beacon goes off to warn drivers that animals may be on or approaching the roadway. The beacon runs for about 40 seconds each time the beam is interrupted by an animal.

The beacon is on top of a yellow warning sign that shows the image of a jumping deer.

“It’s definitely a safety issue,” said Joe Schacher, an engineer for the Idaho Transportation Department. “I think it’s going to be a great system for us.”

Caution signs have been posted along the route for years, but the new system adds an immediate warning when animals actually move into the roadway or next to it.

Crashes involving animals can be deadly. Two Inland Northwest motorists have died this year after their vehicles collided with animals. One accident involved a moose on Interstate 90 near Liberty Lake, and the other involved a deer in Pend Oreille County.

The $200,000 installation was financed by federal economic stimulus funds. The equipment came from a company in Minnesota where as many as 10,000 vehicles a year are involved in accidents with deer.

Schacher said other segments of highway could get the warning systems if the one on Steakhouse Hill proves successful.

The infrared beams might not be suitable for mountain passes because snow buildup could block them, he said. Also, crews will have to make sure vegetation doesn’t grow into the light beams.

Washington does not have any similar systems in this region, officials said.

Trade meetings set this week

Three public meetings are planned this week on a regional effort to enhance the Inland Northwest’s potential for international trade.

A consultant has been hired through a public-private organization known as the Inland Pacific Hub based at the Spokane Regional Transportation Council offices at the Spokane Intermodal Center, 221 W. First Ave.

Businesses and government agencies are participating in the effort aimed at 10 counties in Eastern Washington and nine in North Idaho.

The meetings are:

•Tuesday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Event Center, 1825 Schweitzer Drive, Pullman.

•Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon at Sandpoint Community Hall, 204 S. First Ave., Sandpoint.

•Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon at Spokane Valley CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.

The goal of the Hub group is to establish “the Inland Pacific region as a multimodal global gateway designed to increase international commerce and enhance the regional economy,” according to its Web site.

For more information, go to www.inlandpacific hub.org.

Paving will wait for spring

Five Mile Road in Spokane was expected to reopen last week after several months of improvements, although crews were unable to complete the final paving. That will come next spring.

The $6.1 million project widened the road to 44 feet with curbs and a sidewalk on the west side.

The road now has two northbound lanes and one southbound lane from Austin Road to Alberta Street, and one lane in each direction with a center turn lane from Alberta to Lincoln Road.

It will have a separate bike lane uphill and shared-use bike lane downhill from Austin to Lincoln roads.

Trees, sewer and water lines and grass swales were installed on the upper portion of the project.

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