When the Spokane City Council established a new vehicle license fee to pay for street improvements it included money for sidewalks.
But the sidewalk allocation this year provided only enough funds to install a single block of new sidewalk at Browne Elementary School, 5102 N. Driscoll Blvd., rather than the three blocks needed there.
The other two blocks will have to wait until next year.
Councilwoman Amber Waldref last week told city staff they need to come up with a better system for allocating sidewalk money to ensure that future projects are not done in a piecemeal manner.
She said the problem resulted from a recommendation from a citizen advisory panel that allocated a set amount of money for sidewalk work.
She and Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin told city staff to find ways to pool other funds so that projects can be undertaken in larger chunks, rather than one block at a time.
Community development funds, state grants and fines from red-light cameras could become part of the pool of money for sidewalks, they said.
“Hopefully next year we will have a better sense of the cost (of sidewalk projects),” Waldref said.
The council approved on Monday a $70,800 contract with Cameron-Reilly of Spokane for the one block of sidewalk at Browne Elementary as well as a strip of sidewalks at Arlington Elementary School.
Waldref said sidewalk installation is one of the issues that she hears about when she meets with members of the public.
The $20 vehicle license surcharge is expected to raise $2.5 million a year for Spokane streets and sidewalks through a state-authorized transportation benefit district.
The vast majority of the money will pay for repairing pavement.
Traffic school approved
In a related matter, the council approved on Monday the creation of a traffic school to allow drivers to avoid paying fines if they go to class.
For a fee of $124, drivers can choose to take a lesson on better driving instead of paying for an infraction. The state-established fee is about the same as many driving fines. The school would start in January. Spokane would keep all of the lesson fees.
Spokane County and Spokane Valley already operate a traffic school for violators.
New police models
Someone from Gus Johnson Ford in Spokane Valley pointed out that Ford is now building two types of new police vehicles to replace the venerable Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.
Ford has stopped production of the police Crown Victoria. The Washington State Patrol recently sent its last new CVPI to a Spokane-based trooper.
One of Ford’s replacements will be built on an Explorer frame, while the other is a modified Taurus.
Sound Transit troubles
Sound Transit in the Seattle area still has plenty of room aboard its trains but not enough in suburban park-and-ride lots.
Agency officials are considering charging for parking so that commuters can be sure they will have a space when they arrive for their trains in the morning, according to the Seattle Times.
That would mean an additional charge of $2 to $4 a day on top of train fare of $5.50 round-trip.
The parking shortage is acute in the south suburban stations, but spaces are precious on the north side of Seattle as well.
The Times reported that frustrated commuters who cannot find a spot to park are being forced to continue driving into Seattle and park near their jobs.
Filling commuter trains is a key to financing the 16-mile Sound Transit line, which cost $2.6 billion.
Coal ports would cost
A new report from the National Wildlife Federation says that if coal ports are built as proposed in Washington and Oregon it will result in as much as 150 million tons of coal moving westward from the Powder River Basin fields to the proposed shipping facilities.
The coal is being shipped to China and other spots in Asia to fuel demanding economies.
But the environmental risk is too great, the federation said in its new report.
It cites the risks of coal dust blowing from rail cars, accidents spilling coal into waterways and global pollution created by burning coal as reasons to prevent the shipments.
“In an irony lost on no one, the cheapest and fastest route from the western coal fields of the Powder River Basin goes straight through the Pacific Northwest – a region that is probably the most environmentally conscious in the country. People in the Pacific Northwest know how important a clean environment is to their economy and quality of life whether that means healthy salmon runs or clean air and water,” says the report, titled “The True Cost of Coal.”
32nd Avenue to close
East 32nd Avenue in Spokane Valley is being closed between Avalon and Best roads through early September for a project.