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Getting There: STA grime-fighters take on bus shelters

Spokane Transit Authority employee Damon Myers uses a pressure washer to steam-clean the grime off an STA bus shelter on Friday. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Spokane Transit Authority employee Damon Myers uses a pressure washer to steam-clean the grime off an STA bus shelter on Friday. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Now that winter is easing its grip, workers for Spokane Transit Authority are giving the system’s bus shelters a sprucing up.

Grime has been building up at the shelters since November, so STA workers last week started making their rounds, cleaning them with a steam spray of pressurized hot water.

“I like being outside,” said maintenance worker Damon Myers, one of three employees assigned to the cleanups.

“Right now, I’m on the spring cleanup,” the 11-year veteran said, even though it’s still February. “This is our busiest time for shelters.”

Through most of the year, the shelters get cleaned twice a week, but the cleaning stops when freezing weather starts because the water used could become an ice hazard for riders.

Myers’ route includes the downtown area and portions of the North Side. He said the messiest shelters are at NorthTown and Spokane Community College. The SCC shelters attract homeless people who use them for overnight accommodations, adding to the mess there, he said.

The cleanest shelter is at the Riverpoint campus, he said.

Another one of the shelter maintenance workers said his cleanest shelters are in Medical Lake and at Eastern Washington University, while the messiest ones on his route are in Airway Heights and at Northern Quest Casino.

About half of all boardings are made from the transit system’s 107 shelters, said Molly Myers, STA communications manager.

All shelters meet standards for handicapped access. Plans for each one are approved by building departments in each local jurisdiction.

The workers are equipped with Ford F-450 pickups with dual wheels on the rear axles to support the pressure washers and burners for heating the water. The workers spend about 10 minutes cleaning each shelter and collecting trash from bins inside the enclosures.

Sierra Club pleased with coal inquiry

The Sierra Club last week said it applauds a statement by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that Interior is going to investigate the export of domestic coal from mines in Montana and Wyoming.

Much of that coal would pass by rail through Spokane on its way to new shipping terminals in Washington and Oregon for export to Asia.

Salazar disclosed the investigation in a letter to Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Wyden is chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee and Murkowski is the ranking minority member. The investigation will look at royalties being paid by coal companies.

“Coal corporations have exploited the federal leasing program to grab billions of tons of coal at dirt cheap prices in the hope of realizing high profits overseas,” said Bill Corcoran, deputy director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

“At a time when American families are still being asked to make difficult economic sacrifices, they are counting on federal leaders to protect them from being short-changed by those who profit from skirting the law,” Corcoran said in a news release.

“We urge the Department of Interior’s appointed team of experts to aggressively investigate any efforts made by the coal industry to avoid paying its fair share,” Corcoran said.

Alaska Airlines may add Everett flights

Spokane air travelers might be able to fly to Everett someday.

Alaska Airlines last week said it has filed paperwork with the Federal Aviation Administration to add Paine Field in Everett to its network of cities.

Paine Field would have to be authorized by the FAA to serve carriers.

Andrew Harrison, Alaska’s vice president of planning and revenue management, said Sea-Tac and Bellingham airports serve the Puget Sound region well, but Alaska wants to be in the mix if air service begins at Paine Field.

Alaska’s FAA filing indicated it could provide up to 28 round-trip flights from Everett to Honolulu, Maui, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Portland also would be served.

The filing was disclosed in a news release from Alaska Air Group.

Spokane travelers would have to fly first to Portland to catch a flight from there to Everett, but it could become a good way to avoid Seattle’s heavy traffic congestion on trips to northern Puget Sound.

Paine Field would need an adequate passenger terminal before airlines could serve the city.