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Front Porch: GPS: Going Places Slowly?

My cherry red Pontiac LeMans veered erratically as Derek studied the map, while steering with his knee. Finally, he tossed it in the backseat. “We’ll figure it out,” he said.

“OK,” I replied. “But if we don’t see Mickey by nightfall, you’re going to regret not taking that left at Canada.”

That was 26 years ago. I’m pleased to tell you that road trips have changed. My husband is even more pleased.

Recently, we traveled to Olympia for a wedding. Somewhere outside of Ellensburg, I programmed our destination into my GPS.

Longtime readers of this column may remember that Derek bought me my first GPS five years ago. Prior to that when lost out on an assignment, I’d call his office and ask questions like; “I’m on the Moran Prairie. Am I in Idaho?” Or, “What happened to the rest of F street?” Read more. Cindy Hval, SR

How often do you use a GPS?

Where do you get stuck in traffic in Spokane Valley?

Interestingly, a study found that building an  overpass at University Road, bridging I-90 and the railroad tracks, wouldn't help congestion on Argonne and Pines Roads. So I'm wondering: where do you get stuck in traffic in Spokane Valley and when? The full story about the University Overpass Study will be in the Valley Voice on Thursday.

Yelling at predawn wrong-way drivers

Loudly pointing out that a confused or wasted motorist is going in the wrong direction on a one-way street in downtown Spokane probably sounds like "Yar owing the pronghorn, OK?"

Don’t park it here

It's not easy driving a big rig: In downtown Spokane they get jammed under railway overpasses and soon they may be restricted from parking on residential streets in Spokane Valley. The City Council has scheduled a study session on Oct. 7 to possibly adopt an ordinance restricting parking - read the story here.

A reason why someone seems rattled

He or she turns into his or her driveway from a busy street and, despite switching on the turn-signal a block away, has to deal with almost being rear-ended by inattentive speeders several times a week.

Traffic Hell

After spending 7 hours on the freeway, travelling 60 miles, I walked through our front door claiming I felt like Goldie Hawn’s character in “Overboard.” Hawn spends hours with a chain saw in hand and later sits in a semi-catatonic state muttering, “ba-ba-ba-ba-.” And I wasn’t even driving.

The fatal accident left a semi-truck driver dead and another person hospitalized. Fiery vehicles and strewn debris closed all but one lane for over 10 hours.  As my friend and I inched down the road, we talked and talked about work, holidays, friends, other drivers.  We called our friends who left a few minutes before us, asking for their location.  

An hour later we checked in again. “I have calculated that we have traveled 40 yards per minute in the last hour,” said Mark. So had we.

My favorite observation was one driver next to us. She was crocheting. I think by the time she hit Olympia she must have crocheted a complete sweater. Seven hours’ worth of crocheting could yield quite a garment.

My driving friend remained calm – “what else can we do?” -  and soon we were singing with the Christmas carols on the radio. Reminiscing about friends, now gone.

The experience seems on object lesson for the season:  keep all in perspective, give in when nothing can be changed, enjoy the moments, chat with friends and be grateful for what is. We were grateful – eventually we arrived home, But for one family, the traffic nightmare will remain. One family lost a loved one.  A driver who was simply doing his job, driving a truck, did not arrive home last night and will not be home for Christmas.

Poll: Most Oppose Traffic Change

  • Weekend Poll: Hucks Nation strongly opposes the move by the Coeur d'Alene City Council to shut a block of Front Avenue (from 2nd to 3rd) and make a block of 3rd Street (from Front to Sherman) two-way traffic. 144 of 228 respondents (63.16%) oppose the move in conjunction with the new McEuen Field which will significantly change downtown Coeur d'Alene traffic flow. Only 65 of 228 respondents (28.51%) support the change. 19 (8.33%) were undecided.
  • Today's Question: Based on preliminary information available, do you think the police killing of a Dalton Gardens man was justified?

Bikes Could Ease Hydro Traffic

Item: Bikes could ease hydroplane traffic: Busing people from fairgrounds to course could clog streets/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d'Alene Press

More Info: The road to the water has hydroplane race organizers a little bit worried. Figuring out the perfect way to pull off a race on Lake Coeur d’Alene that could entertain 30,000 or 40,000 people for the first time isn’t the easiest thing to do, and that includes getting fans to and from the venue. “Everything is something we’re working through, you bet,” said Herb Huseland, Diamond Cup Regatta spokesperson. One speed bump they’ve hit along the way — and the race is now two weeks out — is the park and ride option for spectators. Busing around 16,000 people from the Kootenai County Fairgrounds to the race course at Silver Beach could clog traffic at the fairgrounds or on East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.

Question: How do you plan to get to the Diamond Cup races on Labor Day weekend?

DUIs down over holiday weekend, but drug arrests way up…

The Idaho State Police reported 31 DUI arrests statewide over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, from Friday night through early Tuesday morning. ISP also reported 23 crashes, including one fatality and five causing injuries. There were also 35 drug-related arrests, 28 of those misdemeanors and seven felonies. The stats are for ISP only, and don’t include incidents handled by local law enforcement agencies.

So how does that compare to last year? Last year saw 39 DUI arrests, so that’s down, and 22 crashes including one fatality and five causing injuries, so that’s largely unchanged. The number of drug-related arrests, though, was up significantly - more than doubling. During last year’s Memorial Day holiday weekend, ISP reported only 14, including nine misdemeanors and five felonies.

Of holiday traffic, extra enforcement, and drunk driver passed out with head on blaring horn…

At 4:30 this morning, Boise Police were called to a scene where a driver had passed out at the wheel of a running car, his head on the horn and the horn blaring non-stop; citizens called the cops. The suspect, Levi R. Curtis, 33, “appeared to be very intoxicated,” police said. With prior DUI convictions, he was charged with felony DUI. And that was the second one of the night.

Two and a half hours earlier, police had stopped a moped rider after several illegal lane changes; that suspect, Anton D. Moore, 35, also “appeared to be very intoxicated” and registered a .17 blood-alcohol level. He, too, had prior DUI convictions and was charged with felony DUI.

As the holiday weekend kicks off, more than 70 law enforcement agencies around the state have additional officers on the road patrolling, as part of a statewide mobilization from May 20 to June 2 funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The mobilization, which funds additional overtime hours for traffic patrol officers, is aimed at seatbelt enforcement, but in Idaho, with no primary seatbelt law, officers have to pull drivers over for another offense in order to issue seatbelt tickets. “Basically they’re going to be out doing traffic enforcement,” said Steve Grant, Idaho Transportation Department spokesman.

Meanwhile, the AAA is projecting that more than 164,000 Idahoans – 10.3 percent of the population – will be out on the roads over the holiday weekend, driving to their holiday destinations. Be careful out there…

Sullivan Bridge traffic alert

The southbound curb lane over the Sullivan Bridge will be closed for bridge repair work on Wednesday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. People driving through that area should plan for slower traffic or take another route across the Spokane River.

Traffic messes to avoid

Two projects are scheduled to start today that will impact traffic. Spokane County is gearing up to finish the Green Haven sewer project and will start tearing up roads. The main road impacted is Barker Road from Broadway to Appleway, which will be closed to through traffic. Other road closures include Alki Avenue from Greenacres Road to Michigan Road, Michigan Road fro Alki to Appleway and Cowley Avenue from Greenacres Road to Barker.

The city of Spokane Valley plans to start a resurfacing project on Appleway Blvd. today from Dishman-Mica Road to University Road. There will be lane closures; signs and flaggers will direct traffic through the area. The project is expected to last through April 16.

Re-posting: new date for traffic meeting

The city is hosting a traffic calming orientation on December 8, 2011 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at city council chambers. The orientation will include a presentation of the 2011/2012 traffic calming program and explain how your neighborhood can apply for funding for traffic calming projects such as speed bumps, roundabouts, crosswalks, flashing signs and traffic islands.

Better get there:  participating in the orientation is mandatory if your neighborhood would like to apply for funding.
No need to RSVP – just show up.
If you can't make it at this time, the training will be available online at a later date.

Via email from Sandy Scott, Spokane’s neighborhood services and code enforcement office.

Re-posting: traffic calming - new date

The city is hosting a traffic calming orientation on December 8, 2011 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at city council chambers. The orientation will include a presentation of the 2011/2012 traffic calming program and explain how your neighborhood can apply for funding for traffic calming projects such as speed bumps, roundabouts, crosswalks, flashing signs and traffic islands.

Better get there:  participating in the orientation is mandatory if your neighborhood would like to apply for funding.
No need to RSVP – just show up.
If you can't make it at this time, the training will be available online at a later date.

Via email from Sandy Scott, Spokane’s neighborhood services and code enforcement office.

Road work still going on

I realized there is still a lot of road work going on even though it's nearly October when I stumbled across a closed lane on Sprague Ave. at McDonald Road this morning. A check of this week's traffic update from the city of Spokane Valley shows a lot going on.

Work on Broadway is happening this week between Pines Road and University Road. There will be traffic lane and sidewalk closures during the week, so be prepared for delays if you drive this route. The intersection of 11th and Herald road will be closed until 5:30 p.m. today for storm water work. Detours will be in place and the intersection should reopen tomorrow. Evergreen Road between 16h and 24th will be completely closed Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Drivers are asked to use McDonald Road instead. And of course crews are still hard at work on the I-90 widening project east of Sullivan.

Remember to watch for work crews and keep your speed down when going through work zones.

Traffic hangups at Sprague and Pines

I got a surprise this morning on the way in to work when I discovered that southbound Pines is down to one lane at Sprague for work in the road. All traffic is being routed through the left turn lane, whether you are turning or not. The curb lane of eastbound Sprague is also closed, as is the curb lane of westbound Sprague. I'm not sure if this will last the entire day, but just be aware that the work is going on.

Detours ahead

There's some road work going on this week (other than the reconstruction of the Indiana and Sullivan intersection) that will have some impact on how people travel. At 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Bowdish Road will be shut down between 17th and 18th for utility work. The work will continue through 6 p.m. Friday. Traffic will be detoured on 16th and 24th to University.

Today crews began work on Sprague Avenue between University and Evergreen. The work is to install fiber optic cable to connect the traffic lights for better synchronization and is expected to last until October. During the project there will be closures of the westbound curb lane on Sprague and the southbound curb lane on University between Appleway and Sprague.

Traffic issues this week

The utility work going in the Montgomery, University and Grace area has expanded to include Pines Road at Grace. The roads are down to one lane at various times and flaggers are in place to direct traffic. The affected streets are: Van Marter Road from Montgomery drive to Marietta, Montgomery from Van Marter to University, University from Montgomery to Grace, Grace from University to Bowdish and Bowdish between the offset Grace intersections.

The Indiana Avenue Extension project east of Sullivan is also still ongoing and the intersection of Mission and Flora is still shut down for the installation of a roundabout.

Neighborhood success brings traffic

There was a long conversation at Tuesday's South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association meeting about traffic on South Perry - especially between 8th Avenue and 14th Avenue.
During farmers market days that area has a lot of parked cars and a lot of foot traffic.
Everyone agreed it's wonderful to see that much activity in the neighborhood, yet there were also many concerns: the crosswalk paint is worn almost completely off and there are no signs at the crosswalks (except the school crosswalk); the speed limit is 20 mph, but motorists often go faster, especially during rush hour (which coincides with farmers market hours); the intersection at 11th Avenue and South Perry is especially jammed during the busiest times.
Suggested solutions: temporarily getting one of those "your speed is this much" signs (there's one on Rockwood Boulevard right now) and putting traffic cones out in the middle of the crosswalks during farmers market hours. Slow down signs at each end of the business district were also suggested.

What are your thoughts?

Part of Bowdish shut down tomorrow

Bowdish Road just south of Sprague will be down to only one lane tomorrow for utility work from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be flaggers there to direct traffic, but plan on delays if you can't detour around the area. Also, the utility work on Montgomery Drive, University, Grace and Bowdish is continuing. Traffic is also down to one lane in that area.  

Part of Vista Road shut down

It appears that Vista Road between Broadway and Cataldo is shut down for utility work. The road is expected to be closed today and possibly tomorrow as well. Traffic will be routed around the construction via Bessie. Just keep in mind that is it constuction season and these short term road closures will be popping up here and there all the time.

Traffic issues this week

There will be a few new road and lane closures this week in Spokane Valley, mostly for utility work. There is a series of projects that will slow traffic between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. today through Friday. The affected roads are Van Marter from Montgomery Drive onto Marietta, Montgomery from Van Marter to University, University from Montgomery to Grace and Grace between University and Bowdish.

While I was out and about this morning I also noticed that the northbound curb lane on Evergreen in closed between Desmet and Mission. I'm not sure how long that will last, but there was a deep hole dug in the road.  

More traffic issues

The City of Spokane Valley has announced other temporary traffic shutdowns for this week. Today the eastbound curb lane on Broadway at Dyer road will be closed until 5 p.m., as will the southbound lane of Dyer just south of Broadway. The closures should only last for today.

The eastbound curb lane of Sharp Ave. between Evergreen and Bannon will be closed from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day this week. The work should be completed on Friday.

This is the time of year when roads start getting dug up for small and large projects alike, so such short-term closures will become more frequent. Make sure to keep your speed down and stay well clear of the workers.

Traffic issues

There are a few small projects happening on Spokane Valley streets this week that will create occasional traffic problems. The southbound curb lane on Argonne Road will be closed just north of Knox Avenue on Wednesday, so expect congestion as people try to merge into one lane. Sidewalk repair work will be happening on Broadway between Moore and Flora through Friday. Expect narrowed lanes and some delays.

Then, of course, there are the multiple street closures in Greenacres for sewer installation work. The project to extend Indiana Avenue to the intersection of Mission and Flora is also ongoing.

Do you wear a bicycle helmet? If not, why?

This is a German ad from the Consumerist and it reads “Be careful when transporting fragile goods.” Pretty nasty stuff. But the question remains do you wear a helmet? On my bike commute downtown, I see too many NOT wearing a helmet even though it's illegal (and stupid.)

The Spokesman reported this morning County commissioners are considering a bicycle helmet ordinance.
In addition, users of skateboards, roller skates and scooters might be required to wear helmets in unincorporated portions of Spokane County. According to John Craig, Commissioners plan to draft an ordinance and schedule a public hearing after receiving more information from the Spokane Regional Health District and the city of Spokane, which adopted a helmet law in 2004. And they want to know how well city officials believe their ordinance has worked and whether they would recommend any changes.

The comment thread exploded, anonymous commenters arguing not wearing a helmet is an impediment to their personal freedom, safety be damned. I would argue otherwise. I think a helmet is not only a good idea but a necessity. I've taken spills on pavement and I wish we didn't even have to debate whether or not to wear a helmet.


Bicyclist Hit By Vehicle At Division and Garland

This just in from KHQ: “A bicyclist was hit by a vehicle at Division & Garland early Monday afternoon. Authorities report the injuries are non-life threatening and the victim was not transported to the hospital. It’s still not clear who was at fault. Traffic flow in the area is now back to normal.” It’s always frustrating how we don’t know more when these types of accidents are reported but I’m glad to hear the rider sounds okay.

COPS now on Facebook

If you’d like to stay in touch with your local COPS Shops, join them here on Facebook. The social network makes it easy to keep up with a variety of community groups; if you explore a little you’ll also find that many of your favorite businesses have Facebook pages.

And yes that’s snow out there and it’s going to continue to fall for a while. Drivers were making their way down the South Hill (and Perry) this morning without too much drama, but please do take your time - and don’t follow too closely.
Homeowners are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clear of snow and ice - if you have a moment, check on elderly neighbors and make sure everyone is okay. Small favors, like picking up a few things at the store when you’re going anyways, or sweeping the frontsteps for someone who can’t do it alone, means the world at this time of the year.

Ah - the craters are soon gone

The parking lot at Grant Park is getting paved this morning. For those of us with smaller or mid-sized cars that’s extremely good news: no more worries about getting stuck in the giant potholes back there. I’m sure it has to cure for a while, so look for parking somewhere else when you come up for the Perry Street Farmers’ Market this afternoon.

93 Americans die in a car crash every day

On Friday, Grist and Biking L.A. brought up a shocking statistic: 33, 963 Americans died in car crashes last year. That is such a large number and it’s hard to put that into context, so Biking LA brought it down to a understandable scale using the Chilean miner story:

In the 10 weeks since the 33 miners were trapped … over 6,500 people died on American streets, based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In the same period, roughly 850 pedestrians and 140 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle collisions …

And no one even noticed.

No massive press response. No live coverage. …

Those same statistics tell us that of the millions of people who will leave their homes today, 93 won’t return. …

It’s just collateral damage. The price we’ve come to accept for the privilege of getting from here to there. 93 people every day. 651 every week. 2,830 every month.

With Obama’s announcement for $50 Billion in spending on transportation infrastructure, it’s time we consider these figures and where the money needs to go.

Watch out for the kids

Hey neighbors: slow down. Yes, the pavement is nice and new and smooth coming down Perry on your daily commute, but please slow down and watch the speed limit - school is back in session. Please watch out for the kids crossing Perry at Ninth Avenue (and everywhere else). There is still construction on Ninth - heaps of dirt and large machinery sometimes obscure the view - so please, please slow down.

As the neighborhood is developing we are (thankfully) seeing more pedestrians, both young and old, and we are seeing many more cars parked along the street in the business district and on the side streets. Watch out for each other - and please slow down.