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

Getting There: A friendly reminder that Spokane drivers don’t need studded tires

Studded tires are partly responsible for the nation’s crumbling highway system, experts say. Spokane drivers would be better off with the studless winter variety. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Winter is not only coming, it’s here. Just ask September, when the snow first flew.

With winter comes ice, and with ice comes really frightened motorists who, despite recommendations and suggestions from highway engineers and product testers, insist on putting studded tires on their vehicles.

And those studded tires do some significant damage to the roads in this frozen city we call home.

Now that we’ve passed Nov. 1, the official date Washington drivers can install those pavement chewers on their rims, it’s time to talk studded tires vs. winter tires.

Simply put, studded tires do grip better on ice. But studless winter tires are the scientific motorist’s way to go. They outperform studded tires in nearly every condition and have advanced tread compounds that stay pliable in any temperature.

But the ice!

Yes, in the rare occasion when ice is on the road in Spokane, studded tires win. But icy road conditions in the urban area – where the vast majority of us live and convey – are just not that common. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the dreaded “glare ice” that studded tires perform best on occurs about 1% of the time in the Spokane area.

Besides their questionable effectiveness, studded tires tear up our streets and cause about $24.5 million annually in damage to Washington’s roads and highways, according to WSDOT.

This damage simply adds to the denuded state of our state’s, and nation’s, roadways.

A report from the National Academy of Sciences from December 2018 examined the “actions needed to upgrade and restore the Interstate Highway System to fulfill its role as a crucial national asset, serving the needs of people, cities and towns, businesses, and the military while remaining the safest highway network in the country.”

What it found was unsettling. While the vast national highway system has “conferred both broad and deep benefits on the nation,” its “future is threatened by a persistent and growing backlog of physical and operational deficiencies and by a number of large and looming challenges.”

Namely, it’s fallen into a state of disrepair, there’s no money to fix it, traffic congestion is growing, and the solutions to fix it are complex and expensive. In other words, we’re at the point where the nation’s roads are on the verge of collapse.

The report, written by the National Academies’ Transportation Research Board at the request of Congress, said the federal gas tax needs to be increased, something that hasn’t happened since 1993. New funding mechanisms at the state and federal level need to be implemented, the report said, such as tolls and per-mile charges.

Thanks to Tim Eyman and his Initiative 976, the state’s voters are considering doing the exact opposite, by pulling the rug out from underneath the state’s complex and chronically underfunded transportation system.

Putting studded tires on your car to ensure against the 1% glare ice won’t help you any and contributes to the problem.

Wellesley, Euclid closures

Wellesley Avenue will be closed to traffic for three years, beginning later this month.

But first, beginning Wednesday, Euclid Avenue between Market Street and Ralph Street will be closed to traffic as WSDOT crews begin construction of a new railroad crossing at Euclid for the North Spokane Corridor. The work will last two weeks. Once complete and Euclid is reopened, WSDOT will close Wellesley for three years.

The closures are related to construction of the freeway and realignment and relocation of the BNSF Railway tracks, which are being moved to make way for the freeway, from Rowan Avenue to Cleveland Avenue.

Bridgeport, Fairview, Cleveland, Grace, Marietta and Jackson avenues have already been permanently closed for the work.

Direct flights to Houston

Beginning June 2020, United Airlines will begin nonstop flights during the summer season from Spokane International Airport to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

The flights will depart Houston at 9:32 p.m. and arrive in Spokane at 10:58 p.m., and will depart Spokane at 11:55 p.m. and arrive in Houston at 5:17 a.m.

The addition of Houston brings the number of nonstop Spokane flights to 18. It is the fourth United nonstop, along with Chicago O’Hare, Denver and San Francisco.

In the city

The new $1.5 million roundabout on U.S. 2 near Deer Heights Road is nearly complete. Beginning Monday, westbound traffic will be shifted into its permanent alignment, joining eastbound traffic, which shifted last week.

This Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., crews will be working near the intersection of Desmet and Helena, and on Madelia Street between its intersections with Boone and Desmet. Madelia will be closed to traffic, and two-way traffic will be maintained on Helena. This $745,000 project, repairing several wastewater main lines and lateral service pipes, will reduce the amount of groundwater infiltration into the municipal wastewater system.

New STA ticket machines

Starting Monday, Spokane Transit Authority is installing conduit and other infrastructure for ticket vending machines that are anticipated to be working sometime next year.

Traffic lane impacts are anticipated on Sprague Avenue at Napa and Helena, and one lane of traffic in each direction will be open. Work will be done by Nov. 15.