Transit riders with disabilities have a new place to go for help getting around Spokane.
The Spokane Transit Authority has opened a mobility center at the Plaza, 701 W. Riverside Ave., for mobility training and to evaluate potential users of paratransit services.
The center consolidates services into a space that had once been a Burger King restaurant on the second floor of the Plaza.
“This makes for a more professional environment for people who come in,” said Delana Huckabay, program manager for the center, which operates through a private contractor.
Mary Springer, a north Spokane resident who gets around in a motorized wheelchair, visited the center Friday to find out if she could use paratransit service during wintry weather.
Paratransit services are offered in smaller vans, which transport people with disabilities by appointment.
Until now, Springer had been riding regular buses, which can accommodate wheelchair riders.
But paratransit will open new opportunities for getting around Spokane and keeping up with friends during cold-weather months.
“I’m pretty excited about using this service. It’s a whole new world for me,” she said.
Staff at the mobility center put her through the paces to find out whether she could negotiate a mock bus layout that’s part of the new center.
Between 6,500 and 6,800 Spokane-area residents qualify for paratransit.
Spokane has had paratransit service in various forms since the mid-1970s. The federal government mandated it as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
But one of the goals of the mobility center is to help people with disabilities continue using regular buses. Free training sessions are available to prepare passengers for loading and unloading without the pressure of a tightly scheduled bus with passengers aboard.
The training helps riders become familiar with the ramps, turns, seating and harnesses.
Molly Myers, communications manager for STA, said mobility training saves money by letting more riders use regular transit.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the mobility center at (509) 232-6303.
Bridge work funded
Two bridges in Spokane County are among 70 bridges statewide that are going to receive funding for replacement or repair.
Scheduled for replacement are the Christensen Road Bridge over Deep Creek and the Seven Mile Road Bridge over Coulee Creek. Total federal funding for the two bridges is $2.9 million.
Also, the Sullivan Lake Road Bridge over Harvey Creek won funding for replacement at $680,000.
The money comes through the Washington State Department of Transportation and its Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee.
New surface in sight
Work on the Columbia River Bridge at Kettle Falls is wrapping up after months of work to replace the bridge driving surface. State officials said a few minor items are still being finished.
Razz Construction, of Bellingham, started the work in mid-August. Fiber-optic cable is being installed starting Tuesday, which will result in a lane closure and short delays.
Interchange builder picked
Selland Construction of Wenatchee won a $6.4 million bid to build a new interchange on U.S. Highway 195 at Cheney-Spokane Road.
That intersection has been one of the most dangerous in the Spokane area, and a new interchange will alleviate the risk to drivers.
Work should begin early next spring.
Poll on toll
One in three drivers surveyed in the Vancouver and Portland area said they would continue to drive across the Columbia River just as they do now even if tolls are charged for an expensive new bridge project known as the Columbia River Crossing.
Portland drivers were more accepting of a potential toll – 41 percent said they would pay to keep driving across the river.
But Clark County residents on the Vancouver side are more resistant – 65 percent said they would reduce river crossings.
The findings are from a poll conducted for PEMCO Insurance of Washington.
Reservation film honored
A documentary produced by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission on efforts to increase driving safety on the Colville Indian Reservation has won an award from the American Indian Film Festival.
“Traffic Safety Success on the Colville Reservation” won the award for best industrial film at the festival last month in San Francisco.
The documentary shows how the reservation community joined forces to reduce accidents and traffic deaths, including enforcement, road improvements and public education. Bicycle helmets were given to children.
Officers said they had six fatalities in 2009 in a community of 12,000 people. A year ago, there were two fatalities. The reservation has 2,000 miles of roads.
The documentary can be seen at vimeo.com.