Consider the studded tire.
In these wintry climes, the presence of metal rivets where the rubber meets the road causes heartburn for many road builders. The Washington State Department of Transportation estimates that studded tires cause up to $29 million in damage to state-owned roadways every year, primarily in the form of ruts.
That’s why state lawmakers limited the use of studded tires between Nov. 1 and March 31 and instituted a $5 fee on each one sold. A number of states have banned studded tires, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Michigan and Alaska, two northern, frozen locales, allow only the use of rubber studs.
Japan, another country that sees its fair share of snow, criminalized the use of studded tires on dry pavement and developed the studless winter tire, an innovation of Bridgestone, a Japanese company and the world’s largest manufacturer of tires.
Gary Kaesemeyer, the city’s streets director, said the city doesn’t have a position on the issue. Personally, though, he thinks people should try those tires from Japan, which are made from a rubber compound that works better in temperatures below 45 degrees and remains flexible enough to conform to and grip the road.
“The studded tires do damage the roads. We’re encouraging people to try the newest, more modern style of snow tires,” he said. “That’s my personal take on it.”
Without a doubt, studded tires are bad for roads. And in a town where the quality of our roads tops the list of municipal voters’ concerns, you’d think that’d be the end of discussion. Ban the studs, save our roads.
Not so fast.
“Where the studs save you is they help you stop,” said Mel Fries, manager of Preedy’s Tire and Automotive just east of downtown Spokane. “Studs are substantially better on ice and wet ice. They definitely give you superior traction.”
According to snow traction and ice braking tests done by Consumer Reports, “studded models do indeed grip well on ice, but they do not always out-perform studless models, which have more advanced winter tread compounds that stay pliable in the cold.”
Other studies have shown that while studs are the best option for clear ice in temperatures hovering around zero, they reduce a vehicle’s ability to stop on roadways that are simply wet.
Regardless, Fries, an expert on tires if there ever was one, is as sure of stud superiority as he is winter will come, but he noted there was a bit more to it. People with private driveways on the South Hill may want studded tires. Motorists in Spokane Valley probably don’t, since they live in a valley and valleys are, by definition, flat.
It’s about individual driving needs, Fries said, noting that about 25 percent of his customers use studs. In short, the situation’s complicated, something the road builders of the world fail to comprehend, Fries said.
“I know the road department doesn’t like studs. They always calculate the cost of the road damage, but what they don’t calculate is the cost of accidents,” he said. “How much carnage is caused by people who don’t use studs?”
Not much, says Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigney.
“I don’t dispute that they may provide additional traction in the wintertime in certain situations. But typically tires aren’t the cause of accidents in the winter. It’s people going too fast,” he said. “Troopers don’t run studded tires and we don’t have any problems.”
So which side are you on? With the road builders? Or the studs?
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Snow and leaves in the city
The city of Spokane is preparing for the winter season by switching its fleet to sanders and de-icers, not to mention plows. But what about all those leaves?
The city has a schedule for sweeping the streets, but if the snow flies enough, sweeping will be suspended until the spring.
Right now, the street department thinks the roads will be clear enough for sweeping.
In northwest Spokane, sweeping crews will be in the area bound by Francis, Garland, Ash and A Street.
In northeast Spokane, crews will be sweeping from Wellesley to Upriver Drive, Havana to Crestline.
And in the south, sweep crews will run from Regal to Custer and 55th to 29th avenues.
Know your roundabout
The new roundabout on U.S. Highway 2 between Airway Heights and Fairchild Air Force Base is nearly complete, and the Washington State Department of Transportation says it’s time to “prepare for the change by learning how to navigate the new intersection.”
Since it’s the first multilane roundabout in the Spokane area, WSDOT prepared these handy tips:
Slow down and select the correct lane before entering the roundabout.
Yield to traffic already in the roundabout. Wait for a gap, then enter the correct lane.
Use turn signals when exiting the roundabout. Drivers exiting from the left lane should be aware of other vehicles in the right lane and use caution.
Yield to any pedestrians who may be crossing the road when exiting the roundabout.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, know your lanes. The right lane is for a right turn or going straight. The left lane is for a left turn, going straight or a U-turn.
The roundabout was built and paid for by the Spokane Tribe of Indians to provide access to the new casino and related development just to the west of the Craig Road intersection.
Equity and diversity in roadwork
WSDOT is seeking comments on its goal to hire more women- and minority-owned businesses for upcoming highway construction projects.
The department wants to hear from contractors, trade and labor organizations, small and disadvantaged businesses and any others interested in commenting on its proposed Disadvantaged Business Enterprise goal for Federal Highway Administration contracts.
WSDOT is proposing a 19 percent overall participation goal on Federal Highway Administration-funded projects for federal fiscal years 2018 through 2020.
According to WSDOT, the purpose of the program is to create a level playing field for companies owned and operated by “disadvantaged individuals” who want to participate in federally funded highway, transit and aviation programs.
A public meeting about the program will take place at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Nov. 28 in Spokane at the department’s eastern region headquarters, 2714 N. Mayfair St.
For more information, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/equalopportunity.
In the Valley
Installation of a gravel shoulder will close single lanes on numerous roads between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. through Nov. 10:
East Boone Avenue from North Barker to North Grady
East Sharp Avenue from North Barker to North Greenacres
North Greenacres from East Sinto Avenue to East Maxwell Avenue
East Main Avenue from North Vista to North Marguerite
East Railroad Avenue from East Sharp Avenue to North Fancher
East Boone Avenue from North Stanley to North Howe
East Cataldo Avenue from North Yardley Street to North Stanley
Local projects seek federal funding
The Spokane Regional Transportation Council said that three local projects are seeking federal transportation grant funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program.
The city of Spokane Valley’s Barker Road-BNSF grade separation project, which will replace an at-grade rail crossing with an overpass and roundabout on the busy freight rail corridor, is seeking more than $9 million through the federal program. The city estimates that the rail crossings caused about 8,800 hours of vehicle delay in 2016.
The Spokane Tribe of Indians is seeking more than $10 million for its roundabout project, which will also add a paved, multiuse path between Airway Heights and Fairchild.
Lastly, Spokane International Airport wants $5 million for what it’s calling a “multimodal transportation infrastructure safety improvement project” to separate Spotted Road from the inbound and outbound roads that access the airport. The project would relocate a section of Spotted Road farther east.
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