Infrared technology is being deployed to count Spokane’s Centennial Trail users, and it turns out that there are a lot of them.
In August 2015, state transportation officials installed a high-tech Eco-Counter device along the trail in Kendall Yards, which is on the north bank of the Spokane River just west of Monroe Street and Spokane Falls.
In a little over a year and a half, more than 330,000 pedestrians and bicyclists passed the counter, which reads people’s body heat to register them in the count.
About two-thirds of trail users were pedestrians, while the others were on bikes.
Those who know about the popularity of the trail are not surprised.
Loreen McFaul, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail organization, said the Eco-Counter numbers are consistent with other counts taken by observers.
She said the heavy use is clearly justifying the community’s investment in the trail.
“This kind of data is important,” she said.
Not only is the trail an important recreational resource, it is also a conduit used by nonmotorized commuters.
“It’s part of keeping our air clean and keeping thousands of vehicles off the road,” she said.
The friends organization has been instrumental in helping fund trail improvements and maintenance by combining their funds with government transportation grants.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that April was the busiest month for trail use last year, possibly because the Spokane River is at peak flow and the Spokane Falls offer a dramatic attraction.
More than 20,000 users were counted last April, followed by about 16,000 users in May.
The single heaviest day of use was in mid-April last year, when 2,200 people were counted.
Just last month, 1,300 people were counted on the trail in a single weekend day.
June through August last year saw about 14,000 users each month. Bicycle use peaked in July.
Predictably, trail use falls off in October and remains low through February.
The state Department of Transportation a couple of years ago purchased Eco-Counters to provide better data on how much use trails around the state get.
Mike Bjordahl, the former bike and pedestrian coordinator for state transportation in Spokane, said the data is important for trail planning.
McFaul said the data can help justify requests for grant funding.
She said trail use through Kendall Yards is likely to increase once several construction detours come to an end and allow unobstructed access to the trail from Riverfront Park to T.J. Meenach Drive.
The counter is contained in a ground vault with a small post standing above ground. The sensors measure body heat as people pass by. A magnetic loop in the pavement picks up metal in bicycles to distinguish bike riders from walkers or joggers, according to Bjordahl.
He said the pedestrian count could actually be higher than shown by the counter since a pair of pedestrians walking side by side might only register as a single person on the infrared sensor.
A $5.4 million revitalization of Seltice Way in North Idaho is set to begin on Monday.
The project will improve the street with new roundabouts at Grand Mill Lane and Atlas Road.
In addition, the work will involve creation of bike lanes and shared-use paths as well as upgraded utilities and new street amenities.
Work will continue through the construction season this year, and likely during the first part of the 2018 season.
Some detours will be in place around the intersection of Seltice Way and Grand Mill Lane.
The contractor is T. LaRiviere Equipment and Excavation, of Coeur d’Alene.
For more information, go to cdaid.org/projects.
Pettet Drive among street closures
In Spokane, Pettet Drive is scheduled for closure through next Monday as part of the construction of a wastewater overflow tank.
Spokane Falls Boulevard at Riverfront Park will have lane closures through April 21 to make room for park reconstruction.
In Spokane Valley, Buckeye Avenue from the city limits to McMillan Road will be closed through mid-May for a sewer project.
The intersection of 31st Avenue and Pierce Road will be closed through Friday.
East Cimmaron Drive near South Woodruff Road will also have a construction closure.
returned to service
The Keller Ferry over the Columbia River on state Highway 21 was returned to service on Friday.
The ferry had been down for hull and steering system repairs.
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