March 14, 2011 in City

New post part of shake-up at transportation council

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location
Fair warning

Work has resumed on the huge project to lower U.S. Highway 2 and build interchange and overpass bridges for the North Spokane Corridor. Lane restrictions are in place.

A reorganization of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council could bring a change of leadership at the agency and an increase in the cost of running it.

The council board has decided to undertake a national search for an executive director who could become the new boss over the existing transportation manager, who earns $107,000 a year plus benefits.

SRTC board members have adjourned to repeated closed-door sessions officially labeled as “related to the performance of a public employee” to discuss the change. The agency’s lawyer has been present for advice.

Only now have board members revealed their plan to potentially subordinate Transportation Manager Glenn Miles.

Officially, board members are saying that the SRTC is so important to the Spokane region that it needs a director who can work well with the community and with the state and federal officials who have control of transportation grant funding.

“In my mind, it’s all about preparing SRTC for the future,” said Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder, an SRTC board member.

Behind the scenes, however, there is evidence of a dispute between Miles and board members over local transportation dollars.

Miles is seen as being a roadway advocate at a time when a substantial segment of the community is arguing for alternatives such as transit, trails, bike lanes and pedestrian ways.

Miles fought with the Spokane Transit Authority in recent years over the use of transit money for reconstruction of intersections with concrete pavement.

The theory was that the weight of the buses caused damage and that STA was obligated to help finance repairs.

Years ago, STA was awash in cash, but it’s now in the midst of a series of route reductions. Fares have been increased.

The U.S. Department of Commerce eventually overruled Miles on the issue. The practice has ended as of this year.

Miles has been invited to apply for the new executive director job but so far has not indicated what he will do. His contract with the SRTC board expires in April. He did not respond to a request for an interview.

Several board members also did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Snyder, an advocate of multiple transportation modes, said he believes that even if it costs more money, getting a talented executive director will be worth it.

“We’ll be able to collaborate better across the region and deliver folks what they are looking for,” he said.

There also is talk of an agency reorganization to offset the cost of hiring a director.

SRTC, which oversees the 24-hour Spokane Transportation Management Center, has an annual operating budget of $1.7 million and is housed in an upper floor of the historic Northern Pacific Railway depot at First Avenue and Bernard Street.

It is the designated metropolitan planning organization for transportation as required by the federal government. The board includes local elected officials, citizens and top transportation officials.

Grant funding for major projects needs the approval of SRTC, putting the board and staff in the position of saying “yes” or “no” to locally sought improvements.

Work to watch for

Second Avenue from Arthur to Division streets is being reduced to one lane starting today for reconstruction. Traffic lights will be replaced by stop signs.

The work, which includes utility improvements, involves rebuilding the roadway from Arthur to Howard streets to complement last season’s reconstruction of Second Avenue to the west of Howard.

The $2.1 million project is financed through a voter-approved bond fund.

Lidgerwood Street from Rowan to North avenues on the North Side will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Wednesday for telephone utility work.

• State Department of Transportation work should begin today on building a new median barrier on U.S. Highway 195 near Mullen Hill Road south of Spokane.

• Work has resumed on the huge project to lower U.S. Highway 2 and build interchange and overpass bridges for the North Spokane Corridor. Lane restrictions continue to be in place.


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