Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Once it was almost unusual to encounter an adult who had never taken a cross-country bus trip.
That's not so anymore.
Did you ever take an interstate bus trip? Do you think about it when you see someone riding a Greyhound or whatever in an old movie?
Spokane Transit Authority is hosting a series of open houses asking the public for input on its long-range transit plan, Moving Forward. The first open house is Oct. 9 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Center Place, 2426 North Discovery Place. Valley residents are encouraged to show up and share their input on transit service today and in the future. Public input may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the STA Moving Forward Hotline at (509) 343-1659.
A transportation plan for the 2014 Diamond Cup received approval Monday and the Idaho Transportation Department issued organizers a permit for the Labor Day weekend event. The plan approved by ITD includes the bussing plan to and from the event, signage along the highway in the vicinity of Silver Beach, and the requirements expected of the group for organizing and supervising other aspects of traffic control. “Ironically, the ITD permit is one of the requirements for a marine-event permit set forth by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office,” a press release from Diamond Cup organizers said. “Sheriff Ben Wolfinger set a July 1 deadline for the submission of all necessary marine-event permit materials even though he knew that the ITD permit would not be issued until after his deadline.” In a letter Monday from Stephanie Hale at ITD to Diamond Cup president Doug Miller, she wrote that the permit is only conditionally approved/David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.
Question: I must be missing something here. Didn't the sheriff say, no? Can anyone figure out what the Diamond Cup organizers are doing by continuing to seek other permits for Labor Day races?
Idaho's long-awaited survey on transportation improvements is out from the University of Idaho, and it turns out an overwhelming majority of Idahoans think Idaho's roads and bridges need big fixes or they'll fail in the next 10 years. However, the options to pay for that work that drew support in the survey clearly wouldn't raise enough money, while bigger-ticket answers, including gas tax increases, drew less support.
“The conclusion I drew is that our elected leaders are going to have to figure out how to raise revenue for something Idaho voters clearly see as important,” said Priscilla Salant, a University of Idaho professor and interim director of the McClure Center for Public Policy, which released the survey results today. “They have their work cut out for them.”
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter had been waiting for the results of the survey before proposing big road fixes, an issue he made a top priority during his first term in office, but abandoned for the past few years after legislative defeats; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Tyrel Schlecht of Piersol Construction grades the gravel bed under the future equipment bay as he works on the new fire station at Spokane International Airport recently. The station will have sleeping quarters for five firefighters and a 34-foot observation tower. (SR photo: Jesse Tinsley)
A new fire station at Spokane International Airport is rising from the grassy flat southwest of the Alaska Airlines terminal. The $8 million project will replace the existing fire station located northeast of the A and B concourses. Airport officials said the old station has reached the end of its useful life. The 17,700-square-foot facility will have four equipment bays. It’s being built by Lydig Construction under a design by Integrus Architecture, both of Spokane. While the new building appears to be located in a remote spot, it’s closer to the center of the main runway as well as the crosswind runway, said Todd Woodard, airport spokesman/Mike Prager, SR. More here.
Question: How often do you visit the Spokane airport in a given year?
CYCLING — The City of Spokane is asking citizens, including cyclists, to share what they know about getting around town in a way that may be used for improving the area's transportation.
A new online mapping tool will help with data for an update to the transportation and utility chapter of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
Using the mapping tool, the you can note locations, intersections, and stretches of street that are problematic and those that are working well. Directions on how to use the mapping tool are provided on the site, but essentially you navigate to a single point or draw a route and then provide comments about what’s working and what’s not.
The maps work best in the Google Chrome browser since the application is based in Google Maps.
Gov. Jay Inslee says Republicans in the Senate kept changing demands on the amount of sales tax they wanted redirected for transportation projects.
OLYMPIA — A transportation package from the predominantly Republican Senate majority may be announced Thursday, although coalition leaders couldn't say Wednesday how much support it has in their caucus.
Instead, they took aim at Gov. Jay Inslee, accusing the governor of a lack of leadership in negotiating something that he and legislators have said the state needs for more than a year — a plan to build new highway projects, fix roads and bridges, reform transportation practices and generate support for the taxes needed to accomplish that. They haven't had a meeting with Inslee since the first day of the legislative session, Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, said.
“We need to get back in that room,” Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said. “The governor's going to have to show a lot of leadership.”
A spokesman for Inslee called the criticism “utter nonsense” and a sign that those leaders are feeling the heat from constituents and business groups for their own inaction.
David Postman said staff from the governor's office has been in contact with the Curtis King, the Senate Republican working on the package, on a daily basis. The governor convened a dozen meetings on transportation with legislative leaders last year. They broke up in December with King saying it would be up to the Senate to come up with a package as a counter to the proposal House Democrats passed in that chamber, Postman said. According to some recent reports, that package might not be ready until a “lame duck” session after the November elections.
Tom and Schoesler parried questions about whether they had the votes to pass a transportation package by questioning whether House Democrats have the votes to approve the bonds needed for their proposal. Although a list of projects and taxes can pass with a simple majority, the bonds needed to build some of those projects by using the tax money require a three-fifths majority, 60 votes in the House and 30 in the Senate.
“To get to 30, the governor needs to get us in the room. Maybe then you can start meeting everybody's needs,” Tom said.
Inslee and House Democrats can't negotiate with Senate Republicans unless they have the votes to pass their package and get their members to agree to changes they sign off on. “The people who need to be locked in a room is the coalition,” Postman said.
The Sand Creek Byway (pictured in SR file photo) is among 10 projects nationwide vying for America’s Transportation Award, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee. The 2.1-mile U.S. Highway 95 realignment project in Sandpoint, which opened in July 2012, was among the most expensive, controversial and complex road projects in Idaho history. Planning for the bypass dates back to the 1940s, but was held back due to concerns about its impacts both economic—local merchants were worried the bypass would direct business away from downtown shops—and environmental—built along a shallow creek, the roadway required six bridges, 65 retaining walls and vast quantities of fill to buttress it against the soft creek bed. All told, the project cost $106 million to build/Jessica Murray, Boise Weekly. More here.
Question: Now that the byway has been open for more than a year, what is your opinion of it?
OLYMPIA – With enough time, things that were once unthinkable can become conceivable options.
I’m not talking about anything as outrageous as using sarin gas or electing a Democrat in the 4th Legislative District. But a few months ago, it would have been incomprehensible to talk seriously about calling yet still another special session of the Legislature this year.
When legislators limped wearily out of Olympia in late June after two overtime sessions, it seemed like returning in January would be more than soon enough.
Now, however, a special session to address some of the state’s major transportation woes is being floated by Gov. Jay Inslee, who said last week he’d consider calling one in November if legislators could agree on a package of projects and revenue. . .
OLYMPIA — Budget negotiators reported worked late into the night Monday — or early into the morning Tuesday, depending on various accounts — but had no deal to report at the start of the legislative day.
A new word of warning was being sounded, however: It takes time to prepare a budget of about 400 pages after an agreement is reached, including typing, printing, proofing and revising, then having it presented to the legislators, and subjected to votes in both houses where it might be amended. How much time varies a bit, depending on who is making the estimate.
But without an agreement by Wednesday, there might not be enough time to get all of that done before midnight Sunday, when the current fiscal year ends and the new fiscal year starts. The budget is what gives the state the authority to spend money on many of its programs, and pay salaries for many of its employees in that new fiscal year. Hence the worry of a partial government shutdown.
The House is voting on a serious of bills designed to improve state transportation projects. Bills to require permits be issued faster, construction errors be reported more promptly and have the department reported major changes to the Office of Financial Management passed with huge margins.
OLYMPIA — Driving from Spokane to Seattle might take a motorist west on the Avista Highway, across the Microsoft Bridge to the Starbucks Expressway under a bill the Legislature is considering to sell the rights to put corporate or other names on the state's roads, bridges, tunnels and ferries.
Some members of the Senate Transportation Committee made light of the idea, wondering for example, if every legislator would get a chance to name at least one structure after themselves and what it would cost to rename the Tacoma Narrows Bridge the Chuck E. Cheese Bridge.
The cost is unclear, said the committee's staff. There's no cost estimate or fiscal analysis of the proposal.
A 2009 study on selling the naming rights to name the state's ferries estimated it that proposal could raise about $10 million a year, Dan O'Neal of the Washington State Transportation Commission said. Not a lot of money, but “it may have some merit” O'Neal said.
It's an idea the state should at least consider, Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said, if it will bring some money into the state's road project coffers. After all, that $10 million going into the state transportation fund would be money that isn't coming out of the taxpayers' pockets, he said.
… if taxpayers thought there would be a bar car?
Congress approved a last-minute compromise to fund more than $100 billion in highway, transportation and mass transit projects — and keep interest rates on subsidized federal student loans at 3.4 percent for one more year. But while the catchall bill enjoyed broad bipartisan backing last week — passing the House 373-52 and the Senate 74-19 — it received scant support from Idaho's Republican delegation. Only Rep. Mike Simpson voted yes; Rep. Raul Labrador and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted no. Labrador's Democratic challenger, Jimmy Farris, blasted the vote. “If Congressman Labrador had gotten his way, millions of Americans would have lost their jobs,” said Farris. “College students would be drowning in even deeper debt, and higher education would be further out of reach for those aspiring to go to school. Labrador voted against millions of people trying to support their families and better their lives”/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (Farris Campaign Photo: Jimmy Farris in Weiser showing Super Bowl ring to fan)
Question: Do you support/oppose Congressman Raul Labrador's transportation/student loan vote?
TRAILS — The U.S. Senate voted 60-38 to reject Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) amendment to siphon the only dedicated source of funding for walking and biking trails into bridge repair projects.
“The amendment was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans, important news as we head into what is likely to be months of more attacks on the Transportation Enhancements program,” said Jake Lynch of the Rails to Trails Conservancy.
Transportation Enhancements funds have been the largest and most cost-effective source of funding for trails, walking and bicycling during the last 20 years.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has posted a short story on both the vote and the amendment.
“This current budget battle has the potential to dramatically alter everything from how we get around to our economic, environmental and personal health for decades to come,” said Lynch, who's based in Washington, D.C.
Follow the political threats to active transportation on the Rails-to-Trails Consevancy blog.
I like this photo partly because it looks to me like a still from an old movie.
You know, they're hauling some sort of contraband. Or the driver is about to pick up a fetching damsel in distress. Or this truck has an appointment with a sharp turn and a steep cliff.
If you like pictures of old trucks, and who doesn't, check out the site credited below.
For those of you keeping score at home, controversial Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, was appointed vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee and remains a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Vito Barbieri, the newby who replaced Jim Clark in House District 3, was appointed to the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, a panel from which Hart asked to be removed after a House Ethics Committee hearing on his income tax problems. Hart faces another hearing before the Ethics Committee as a result of a newspaper report that he illegally took timber from state endowment land to build his house. You can read the full account of committee assignments for the House by Betsy Russell here and for the Senate by Dustin Hurst here.
Question: Did Rep. Phil Hart get the right assignments?
Spokane bicycle advocate Barb Chamberlain stopped by the South Perry Blog this morning. We are fast approaching the end of ‘Bike to Work Week’ and Chamberlain said the tournout has been solid. “We have about 1,300 people registered and it’s not too late to register,” said Chamberlain. She’s also hoping more bike commuters will join Bike to Work Spokane on Facebook as a way to stay connected with the bike community in Spokane. “We may change our format a bit next year to where we sign people up year round, not just this week.” One goal of the Bike to Work Spokane group is to get a good estimate of how many people acutally bike commute. Last year’s bike count didn’t quite work out, said Chamberlain, because it was really nasty rainy weather and it was only possible to count bikers in a few locations. “If we sign people up year round, we’d get a much better estimate of how many people ride there bikes to work,” Chamberlain said. And then she put on her helmet and rode off.
From today’s story about the Senate transportation plan:
The Senate is also calling for a study of how the state, which relies heavily on gas tax revenue to pay for roads, can keep paying those bills as motorists continue switching to high-mileage and electric vehicles.
“We have a long-term problem: Cars are getting more efficient, and people are driving less,” said Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. While that may be good for the environment, it also means that the state is collecting less gas tax than expected.
In fact, Haugen said, it now looks like recent gas tax increases that were expected to pay for 16 years’ worth of transportation projects will be used up by 2015. So the budget also calls for a study of how else to get people to pay to use the roads.
“The fact is, gas tax is the most unreliable tax going forward,” said Haugen. “I don’t know what the fuel of the future will be, but I doubt it will be petroleum.”
Several lawmakers said Wednesday that the state may eventually have a “vehicle miles traveled” tax based on how much people drive. Haugen also said that toll roads will become more common.
“We’re looking at those sorts of things. They’re years away,” said Sen. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island.
(State Sen. Chris) Marr said he’s talked with electric-car advocates about whether they’re willing to pay a tax in lieu of gas tax. They seemed open to the idea, he said.
“Let’s face it, (electric cars) create wear and tear and congestion on the highway system,” said Marr. It’s not fair, he said, for the costs to be born just by gas and diesel users.
KMPO is developing a region-wide Non-Motorized Transportation Plan and we’re asking for your input on it through a quick online survey. The plan will assist in the development of a bicycle and pedestrian network within the Kootenai region. It will identify policies, goals and projects, and opportunities to provide facilities like pathways, sidewalks, and bike parking. The survey asks a variety of questions, such as how often you walk or ride your bike, where you walk or ride to, and what would get you to walk or bicycle more often. Click here for the survey, then hit the link at the top of the KMPO home page/Kootenai MPO. More here.
DFO: HBO friend Jeff Selle is one of the key people involved in the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization. Which has become a major player in the local transportation planning. Please take a moment to fill out the survey in the link above and send it to KMPO.