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Opinion

Tue., July 13, 2010

Editorial: Public input critical piece in fulfilling transit needs

There’s more on Spokane’s transportation agenda than potholes and the North Spokane Corridor.

That should be evident tonight at an important public meeting hosted by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, part of a visioning process designed to focus on the full array of agencies, activities and infrastructure needed to move people and goods efficiently around the region.

Repairing and maintaining the community’s deteriorating streets and completing the NSC are significant elements of the challenge, no question, but they are not the only elements. Too often, however, diverse projects are treated as separate and unrelated rather than what they are – components of one regionwide system.

That system has to operate smoothly. Otherwise, not only do we all suffer inconveniences, our commerce suffers, too, as does our general quality of life. The economy stagnates. Jobs disappear.

Transportation touches everyone, and it matters to everyone.

So while public forums and workshops and roundtables have become relatively common (and sometimes forgettable) features of public policymaking ventures, tonight’s meeting and a trio of roundtable sessions on Wednesday are more important than most. To achieve their potential, they need public participation, not just the technicians and special interests who speak their own language and already have disproportionate influence over decisions.

Tonight’s workshop is from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Wednesday’s events, all at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley, include: 10 a.m. to noon (development), 1-3 p.m. (freight) and 6-8 p.m. (bicycles and pedestrians).

That’s the beginning. A draft plan is expected for public review in September, and, if project manager Jay Renkens of the California-based consultant MIG Inc. is correct, this effort could influence decisions for decades.

The ingredient that makes this process so important is the subject matter. Addressing transportation needs should concentrate on more than forestalling such negatives as congestion and busted tie rods. It should be about building a transportation network that creates positives that give Spokane an edge over other cities.

By integrating streets and highways, transit and cycling, rail and air, Spokane and the region that surrounds it have a timely opportunity to define themselves as a connected region. Admittedly, it’s a complex undertaking, which is why citizen engagement at this early stage is urgent.

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:



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