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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ban on studded tires getting more support

The drive to reduce or eliminate studded winter tires in Washington is gaining traction, a leading transportation advocate from Spokane says.

Joe Tortorelli, vice chair of the Washington State Transportation Commission, said he supports a call to phase out the use of studded tires to save money on highway and street maintenance.

“I think it’s time,” he said last week.

Banning studded tires in Washington could save an estimated $18 million to $27 million annually on state highway repair work, and that doesn’t count the cost to fix city and county streets damaged by tire studs.

Ending the use of studded tires is one of numerous recommendations in the commission’s updated transportation plan through 2035.

Washington would join several other states that have banned studs, including Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Tortorelli said.

The effort to curb the use of studded tires is also getting pushed in the Legislature this winter. Lawmakers have introduced one bill in the House and one in the Senate that would require drivers with studs to purchase a permit each year.

The House version calls for a $100 annual permit. A violation would carry a $500 fine. Funding would go to highway and street repairs.

The Senate version calls for a $75 annual permit with a $75 fine.

Tortorelli said there is increasing recognition that studded tires eat up pavement, and the ruts caused by studs create a highway hazard.

Still, Tortorelli is giving the legislation only a 50-50 chance of passing.

The newer type of studless snow tires, which use softer rubber compounds, provide superior traction and safety, he said.

State panel gives transportation plan

The commission’s 2035 transportation plan makes numerous recommendations to increase funding for transportation needs, including completion of the North Spokane Corridor from Hillyard to Interstate 90.

The plan was submitted to the governor and Legislature on Jan. 22.

Tortorelli said one idea is to increase the gasoline tax by 15 cents over two years to raise $450 million annually. The revenue would be split by 52 percent for state highways and 48 percent for local needs, he said.

The gas tax increase would go exclusively for preservation and maintenance of the existing transportation system under the commission’s proposal, he said.

It would be accompanied by a new motor vehicle excise tax of 1.5 percent on the depreciated value of vehicles under the proposal, Tortorelli said. The tax would be levied on 80 percent of a vehicle’s book value and collected through license tab renewals.

Tortorelli said lawmakers are working on their own transportation funding package this session.

After failing to reach agreement the past few years, lawmakers are likely to come up with some kind of revenue package this session, he said.

Transportation commissioners are recommending that the state use a pay-as-you-go model rather than borrowing money through a bond sale as was done in the past, Tortorelli said.

Another transportation priority is building highway capacity to move freight. Bottlenecks near the Port of Seattle slow freight badly, Tortorelli said.

Improved road safety is among the transportation commission’s recommendations.

Public transportation and multiple modes of travel are also supported by the transportation commission, which is calling for increased local funding options for transit.

The value of trails and sidewalks to public health is cited as another transportation goal.

The commission is calling for greater accountability and transparency in transportation spending.

Bonners Ferry project open house

The public is being asked to help out with preliminary design of the Bonners Ferry South Hill project on U.S. Highway 95.

An information and public input meeting is set for Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the National Guard Armory, 6566 Main St., in Bonners Ferry.

The open house will show how project planners are proposing to continue the type of improvements that were built in 2003 between Walker Way and Alderson Lane.

A corridor study in 2012, which drew a considerable amount of public input, is also being factored into the planning, said Reed Hollinshead, public information specialist for the Idaho Transportation Department.

In a news release, Hollinshead said members of the public are welcome to drop by at any time during the meeting.

Public feedback sought on plans

Spokane Valley will hold a community meeting Feb. 11 to update residents on plans for Mission Avenue improvements from Flora to Barker roads. The meeting will be 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Greenacres Christian Church, 18010 E. Mission Ave.

A formal presentation at 6 p.m. will include an update on community input from earlier meetings. Information will include details of road widths, lane configurations, bike and pedestrian enhancements, curbs and drainage.

“Participants will also be asked to share their preferences on options for appearance and landscaping of the existing roundabout at Mission and Flora, and the roundabout to be installed at Mission and Long Road,” according to a news release from the city.

• Post Falls also is looking for public help in transportation planning. The city is updating its plan for streets, paths and sidewalks and wants residents to take an online survey:

• In Spokane, public input is being sought for changes to the city’s master bike plan through Feb. 23. An open house is set for 5 to 6 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the Chase Gallery in the lower level of City Hall.