March 15, 2010 in City

Spokane tunes up fleet’s eco-friendly quotient

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The city of Spokane is getting an oil change as part of its effort to promote environmental sustainability.

Officials recently announced that the city’s 1,400 vehicles will now be running on re-refined motor oil, a product made from waste oil.

The change is part of Mayor Mary Verner’s focus on environmental awareness.

Gene Jakubczak, Spokane’s fleet services director, said re-refined oil performs as well or better than motor oil made from virgin crude, and using it reduces U.S. reliance on foreign imports while conserving fossil fuels.

The downside is cost. The city is paying 25 cents a gallon more for re-refined oil than for oil from virgin crude, he said.

That amounts to an extra $2,300 a year for the bulk purchases.

“That’s an extremely minimal hit in the scheme of things,” Jakubczak said of the cost.

Oil’s lubricating ability does not go away once it’s been used. Re-refining removes contaminants from waste oil, which is then blended with new additives.

Virgin oil goes through much the same process. “There’s dirt in it when it comes from the ground,” Jakubczak said.

The oil is being purchased from a local supplier through a contract negotiated by the state.

Despite its apparent availability to government agencies, not many agencies around the region report using it.

Spokane Transit Authority, Spokane County’s road department and the state Department of Transportation in Spokane use motor oil made from virgin crude, those agencies reported.

The Idaho Transportation Department uses synthetic oil in its heavier trucks and a petroleum and synthetic blend in lighter vehicles. It hopes to go to all synthetic oils in the near future, a spokesman said.

A Washington DOT spokesman said road crew supervisors use top-line oil made from virgin crude to ensure reliability.

Jakubczak said he believes that reliability and quality are not at issue because re-refined oil “is as good or better than virgin product.”

Work zones

•A pavement repair project funded through federal economic stimulus moneys gets started today on U.S. Highway 195 between Interstate 90 and Hatch Road, a distance of about five miles.

The work will be done on a single lane at a time, forcing traffic to be reduced to one lane adjacent to the repair work as the project moves across the area segment by segment.

Crews will be sinking dowel bars into panels of concrete to anchor and stabilize them from tipping or settling. Some panels will be replaced.

•The state Department of Transportation will be doing pavement repair on the Hamilton Street Bridge south of I-90 starting today. As a result, the eastbound I-90 off ramp to Hamilton Street will be reduced to one lane between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. through Thursday.

•Work is resuming on a north Spokane freeway project to create an underpass for U.S. Highway 2 where it will cross beneath the freeway near Farwell Road. Southbound traffic remains restricted to one lane.

States share ride-share program

Idaho is making its ride-sharing program more accessible to motorists and commuters in a collaborative program with Washington.

Residents can go to RideshareOnline.com and learn about commuting options in the two states.

The site describes itself as a “gateway to free information on travel options and incentive programs for commute and non-commute trips. It also offers tools for employers to implement effective commute reduction programs.”

A sober St. Pat’s

Not to rain on anyone’s St. Patrick’s Day, but law officers in the region want party people to know that they are on the lookout for intoxicated and drugged drivers this week.

They said they want residents to be responsible and to use designated drivers or take cabs if they consume.

The effort, which began Friday, continues through Sunday.

Joining the Washington State Patrol on the emphasis are law officers from Spokane County, Spokane, Spokane Valley, Cheney, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights and Eastern Washington University.

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