Local news

Highway construction season is upon us

Work is ramping up for the season on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass, where the state Department of Transportation is in the middle of a series of major improvements to Interstate 90.

Motorists may encounter some delays, but the agency said it has planned construction to minimize impact on traffic, especially during the summer driving season that begins the last weekend of May.

The largest project near Hyak is set up with detours that carry two lanes of traffic in each direction during construction.

Blasting work starting at the end of May could cause delays of up to an hour at sunset Mondays through Thursdays.

Farther east, traffic restrictions will continue for more than a week around pavement repairs in the westbound lanes between Easton and Bullfrog Road near Cle Elum. Delays are possible this weekend.

Those restrictions, however, will end in time for Memorial Day weekend, officials said.

“We are doing everything we can to minimize impacts to the public,” said Bob Hooker, assistant project engineer.

A companion project to repair eastbound lanes will start this summer with nighttime work from Lake Easton to Big Creek Bridge.

In that stretch, traffic restrictions during daylight hours and weekends won’t occur until early September and will be in effect through much of the fall. Work there resumes in 2011.

Both Easton-area pavement projects are being financed through federal economic stimulus funds totaling $38million.

The big project from Hyak along Keechelus Lake is in its second stage of construction this year under a $76million contract awarded to Max J. Kuney Co. of Spokane.

Preliminary work on the project began last year with installation of a detour bridge at Gold Creek.

The Kuney job involves three miles of freeway and will add one lane in each direction, replace deteriorated pavement on existing lanes, replace bridges and culverts, stabilize rock slopes, extend chain-up areas and make other improvements.

Work on that contract will be finished in 2012, but the larger project continues through 2015.

A third contract to be awarded this fall for work on two more miles of the freeway. It involves construction of a new snow shed and slope work for better avalanche protection. That contract is estimated at more than $200 million.

In addition to those projects, nighttime work will be under way June through October on a four-mile job to repair pavement from Keechelus Dam to Cabin Creek to the east of the landmark snow shed.

For information, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i90/ or call (888) 535-0738.

Instant updates by automated directory are available by calling 511.

Safer railroad crossing

People walking across railroad tracks near Eastern Washington University will see a safer crossing built over the next year.

Between 35 and 45 trains a day travel along three sets of tracks at Cheney Spangle Road, connecting the university with a residential area. The city of Cheney will install 320 feet of sidewalk at the site, using $20,000 in state funds and $2,000 in city funds.

College students and business patrons cross the tracks daily, sometimes walking around activated crossing arms. The new sidewalk will include handicap ramps, a concrete barrier and signs and a smooth walking surface for pedestrians.

A 300-foot fence will be installed behind several local businesses on First Street, directing pedestrians to the designated crossing.

The upgrades must be completed by June 15, 2011.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved the state grant.

Body scanners coming

Spokane International Airport will receive federal funding to install backscatter imaging technology to screen passengers for metallic and nonmetallic items, including weapons and explosives.

The scanners, to be in place by the end of this year, project low level X-ray beams over the body to create an image, resembling a chalk etching, displayed on a monitor. The system can detect weapons concealed under the clothing and allows the Transportation Security Administration to screen without physical contact.

The money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“Getting these in-demand, high-tech machines into Spokane’s airport will help address evolving threats and keep the traveling public safe,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee.

Advanced imaging technology has been in high demand since a passenger attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25.

This is week to bike to work

Bike to Work Week in Spokane gets going today with a pancake breakfast at Riverfront Park from 7 to 9 a.m.

Organizers are hoping to get 1,700 riders to participate after racking up a total of 1,400 registrations last year.

Events this week include a walk and roll to school day on Wednesday at participating schools. Energizer stations with snacks and beverages are being sponsored at locations around the county throughout the week.

A wrap-up party is set for the Steam Plant Grill, 159 S. Lincoln St., on Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Bike lockers for rent

The Spokane Public Facilities District is now leasing eight bike lockers in a parking lot across from the INB Performing Arts Center.

Cost of the lockers is $60 for six months. The secure lockers are large enough to store a bike and gear.

For information, call (509) 279-7428 or visit www.spokanecenter.com/bikes.

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