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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crews Battling 'Debbie Sue's' Leftovers

City of Coeur d'Alene crews are out in force battling 'Debbie Sue.' For those of you not familiary with CDA's method of naming storms, 'Debbie Sue' is the fourth storm of the year to blow through, and since the storms are named in alphabetical order, yesterday's storm had to have a 'D' name.

The lake city got over ten inches of snow in the past couple days and Street Maintenance Department crews face a tough challenge managing such a great amount of snow falling in a short period of time.

Crews are focusing first on arterial streets, collector streets, and hills, and then residential streets. Barring any equipment failure, by tonight all residential areas will be completed.

For more information, check out the Street Department website.

Collision Count

It was a mess of slideoffs, collisions and stuck vehicles out there last night. On the bus ride home, the freeway was at a standstill, so our driver took a detour. She was nervous about which roads to take though, so a rider stood at the front with her, on the phone to his girlfriend who was watching traffic cameras on her computer at home. He not only directed her around several accidents that could have tied us up on the bus for a LONG time, but when we got to the park and ride, the same man helped each of the women off the bus and over a giant mound of snow at the sidewalk. Thanks to our bus driver and that gentleman for getting us all there in good condition.

Here's a roundup of how many accidents and other incidents law enforcement dealt with last night.

On my way in this morning, I noticed a car in the ditch and a couple of fender benders but for the most part conditions looked a lot better.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NICE Cuts Transit Service

Looks like it's the end of the road for North Idaho Community Express service in rural areas. NICE is halting rural transportation in Kootenai, Bonner and Shoshone counties as well as intercity travel between Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene. The Bonner County Daily Bee has the story.

Despite the hit to NICE, plans are still underway to establish a bus system between Dover, Sandpoint, Ponderay and Kootenai. And if that happens, the new transportation system may be able to pick up some of the slack for NICE. Here's that story from the Daily Bee.

Best Rest Stop? I'll Be The Judge Of That

What do you find desirable in a rest stop? I personally like the ones that have real mirrors instead of those scratched up pieces of metal mounted on the walls, and I really love a rest stop that doesn't have shady characters skulking around. A pet area that's not two miles away is also nice, as is free coffee, which is getting harder and harder to find.

One rest stop in Utah has all of the above, and more. And in recognition, it's been voted the best rest stop in the country. It doesn't look that great. I mean, where's the guy who cleans your windshield for free or a kiosk to look up google maps to make sure you're actually on the right route? Alright, I'm asking too much. Check out the video and give me your opinion, plus let me know what characteristics you judge rest stops on.

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

Check Traffic Cameras Before Hitting Roads

A reminder for those of you who commute to Spokane or vice-versa that on days like this it would be a good idea to check the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center website before heading to work or home. The site shows you conditions from 60+ live traffic cameras. And if your usual route is at a standstill due to accidents or bad conditions, you can check out alternate routes to see what's the best way to get where you're going.

Road Officially Named After Baker

It's official- a new road north of Hayden is now named after Vernon Baker, the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran who lived North Idaho.

The new Vernon J. Baker Boulevard is a frontage road that runs parallel to U.S. Highway 95 between Lancaster and Bentz roads in an unincorporated section of the county. The Coeur d'Alene Press has the details.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Highway 3 Closure

The Idaho Transportation Department has just sent out notice that a culvert running underneath Idaho 3 near Rose Lake (Milepost 113.8) has collapsed, washing out a portion of the roadway and forcing the closure of the highway.

High run-off and flooding in the area caused the collapse.

A new culvert will be installed and the roadway repaired. ITD will keep the highway open (one-lane, one-way) through the night and wont close the road until the contractor has assembled everything on-site sometime tomorrow morning. Then the closure will last a couple days.

At that time, you will need to find alternate routes. Commercial truck traffic will be re-routed from Interstate 90 to U.S. 95 and Idaho 5.

Short Week For Gov Workers

It's a short week for us government workers again. All local government offices are closed Friday, and several close early on Thursday. Everything opens again at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 3.

Car Drives Into Radio Shack

The Post Falls Radio Shack became a drive-thru when a man crashed his car through it yesterday. Here's what happened, from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

One time, years and years ago, I was at the dollar store that used to be in the outlet mall. A car came through the front window. While the employees were helping the elderly man inside, some shoppers started looting stuff. Come on folks, it's the dollar store!

Cheap Bike Snow Tires

Check this out. Don't want to pay for fancy snow tires for your bike but want to be able to ride it in the winter? Thanks to Alison for sending me these do-it-yourself bike snowtires! Everyone has zip ties lying around their garage. Just strap them on your tires and you're ready to go.

Here's more on this idea from Lifehacker.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Car Parts Disapearing In Broad Daylight

As if it wasn't bad enough that you have to worry about someone breaking into your car, now you have to worry about thieves stealing parts off of your car as well.

Auto shops said they’ve seen a rise in the numbers of cars missing catalytic converters in the past month. Why? Krem 2 News explains in this story:

Someone Got Pretty Creative

Okay, I know Christmas is over now and people are already talking about taking down their trees, but check out the picture of the Christmas tree made from bikes on the Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle Blog before the season is completely over. It's pretty cool.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blogging Holiday

A reminder that there will be no new blog posts for a couple days as SRTC celebrates the holidays. To quote Clark Griswold, "Well I'm gonna park the cars and get the luggage, and well, I'll be outside for the season."

'Gauge' How ITD Is Doing Using Their Dashboard

Do you ever wonder how Idaho is doing for bridge conditions, fatality rates, highway congestion, percentage of highway projects completed on time, etc.? Well the Idaho Transportation Department has a place you can check their annual performance measures.

They call it their Transportation System Dashboard and it's pretty cool. Just click on the 'gauge' of your choice to get the stats.

McEuen Park Plan Unveiled

A team charged with developing a new vision for the current McEuen Field has come up with some state-of-the art features such as a giant water fountain, a meeting point that displays public art with walking paths through it, and a large plaza.

That means a couple of current facilities will be eliminated, such as the boat launch and the parking lot. Consultants on the project say not to worry though, that parking with actually double with a new three-level underground parking lot stretching from Third to Sixth streets.

Here are more details, and how you can put in your two cents, from the Coeur d'Alene Presss. Sounds like this park has a little of everything, including ADA access to trails. Since this is just a 'wish list' basically, is there anything else you'd like to see included?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Federal Vs. Local. Or Not An Issue?

Congress will begin drafting transportation legislation next year, but the lack of available funding has some speculating that there could be competition between transit and highway advocates over federal funding.

The argument on the part of highway advocates could be that highways are inherently an interstate concern while transit and non-motorized forms of transportation are a nonfederal concern. To which some say the line between “federal” and “local” transportation is not as easily determined as some may think.

This article in 'Planetizen" argues that every transportation project has an equal interstate impact. Any thoughts on this that weren't mentioned in the article?

Idaho Gains Citizens In Census Count

Coeur d'Alene's population just went up. As did all of Idaho's. Well not really 'just' went up- the census numbers have just been released that show that population has increased by 21.1% in the state since April of 2000.
Actually, many signs across the state will.

So what does that mean for transportation? Based on new population numbers, Kootenai and Spokane counties could become a combined Metropolitan Statistical Area. That means there's the possibility that our regional Planning organizations, SRTC and KMPO, could be combined into one agency, although that's not likely.

Our Transportation Planner Ryan Stewart is quoted in this article about the census results.

Insurance Industry Announces Safest Cars For 2011

What cars are the safety new vehicles? According to the insurance industry's annual list, the safest vehicles belong to South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia and German car maker Volkswagen.

66 vehicles were recognized today with “top safety pick awards” for the 2011 model year. The list also includes Audi, GM, Ford, and Toyota. I've been looking at buying a Toyota just because they have Eric Estrada in their latest commercials. Glad there's some stats to back up my decision.

Here's the info on which of these auto makers' cars are the safest and why.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ITD Bike/Ped Knowledge Contest

The Idaho Transportation Department has started a weekly contest of bicycle and pedestrian knowledge on the ITD Bicycle and Pedestrian Facebook discussion board. Every Friday a question will be posted that tests the knowledge of walkers, cyclists, and drivers on the Rules of the Road and how to properly share the road with fellow travelers. The correct answer will be posted the following Tuesday so that everyone can see if they are right and how they compared to everyone else.
Here's the page so you can bookmark it and play along.

Trail Of The Coeur d'Alene's Unofficial Guidebook Available For 2011

Just in time for Christmas, the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes Unofficial Guidebook is available for your favorite trail user. The fourth annual Guidebook is now available at local bookstores and has a lot of new information.

So what’s new on the trail for 2011?:

• A Trailways bus on the Seattle/Boise route now makes daily stops at the Warpath, a store adjacent to the trailhead in Plummer, Idaho.
• The mothballed McKinley Inn of Kellogg re-opens this month as a hostel and hotel combination to serve skiers and cyclists.
• A river shuttle is now available to haul floaters and tubes up the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene from Albert’s Landing Campground, a half-mile from the Enaville Trailhead.
• The Silver Valley NICE bus now has room for two bicycles and will shuttle riders between trailheads with 24 hours notice.
• Watson’s Resort at Rose Lake is now offering courtesy shuttles from Bull Run Trailhead (about two miles) for folks who need an overnight break on the long stretch between Harrison and Cataldo.

Along with details on lodging, recreation, entertainment, transportation, shopping and more, the book includes free perks for guide holders, like complimentary coffee or tea at trailside eateries, and tips on free camp spots and transportation. If you can't find the Guide at your favorite local bookstore, you can order it online here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Closures

This is a short week for us government workers, so if you have official business, you only have four days this week and next to do it. Because Christmas falls on a Saturday this year, we get Friday off. That includes all city halls, and most other government facilities. All offices open again on Monday, Dec. 27, most at 8 a.m.
Someone sent me this picture in an email with some other pictures, and the caption was, 'This is why America is fat.' @Todd sent me the story behind the picture and it's actually pretty amazing. While technology makes me crazy some days, this is one of those examples of how it's making a huge difference in someone's life. I'm not going to link to the actual article because there's some language in it I'm not comfortable linking a government site to, but here's the overview: the woman in the picture is named Melissa. She's a 15-year cancer survivor. She lost her left leg to the illness and started using the Segway as an assistive device because it's both maneuverable and because she has difficulty walking, especially on hilly areas. It also allows her to be in the standing position and look people in the eyes during conversations, and be mobile in ways that wheelchairs are not. So there's your uplifting story for the day. Way to overcome Melissa.

New ITD Bike/Pedestrian Website

The Idaho Transportation Department has a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Program website that just came online. You can find information there on ways to get around Idaho, regulations and standards, a place where you can submit your own ideas and projects, brochures on walking and bicycling and much more. Click here to check it out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Judge Sides With Lowe On At Least One Point

A federal judge has issued a proposed order siding with fired Idaho Transportation Director Pam Lowe on a key point in her wrongful-firing lawsuit. Lowe contends that she wasn’t an “at-will” employee who could be dismissed without cause and U.S. Magistrate Ron Bush agreed.

Here's the latest from the Spokesman-Review on this story.

Board Asks For GARVEE Funds To Cover 95 Project

The Idaho Transportation Board is looking to borrow $162 million for projects to make it easier to drive between Boise and Canyon County and around north Idaho.

The Board asks for Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) program annually from the Legislature. This year, their request covers enough for several projects, including the project to widen 12 miles of U.S. 95 from Chilco to Granite. Not everyone supports the request though. The Coeur d'Alene Press has the story.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

10 Worst Foods To Eat While Driving

With all the attention on texting and driving, apparently some people have forgotten that it's not safe to do a lot of other things while driving, such as eating or anything else that makes your hands unavailable to be placed on the steering wheel. MSN remembered though and came out with this list of the top ten worst foods to eat while driving. Below is the list, followed by MSN's comments:

1. Coffee: It always finds a way out of the cup.
2. Hot soup: Many people drink it like coffee and run the same risks.
3. Tacos: A food that can disassemble itself without much help, leaving your car looking like a salad bar.
4. Chili: The potential for drips and slops down the front of clothing is significant.
5. Hamburgers: From the grease of the burger to the ketchup and mustard on top, plenty of goop can end up on your hands, clothes and steering wheel.
6. Barbecued food: Similar issue arises for barbecued foods as for hamburgers. The sauce may be great, but it will end up on whatever you touch.
7. Fried chicken: Another food that leaves you with greasy hands, which means constantly wiping them on something, even if it's your shirt. It also makes the steering wheel greasy.
8. Jelly- or cream-filled doughnuts: Has anyone ever eaten a jelly doughnut without some of the center oozing out? And jelly can be difficult to remove from material.
9. Soft drinks: Not only are they subject to spills, but they also can fizz as you're drinking them if you make sudden movements. Most of us have childhood memories of soda fizz in the nose; the sensation isn't any more pleasant now.
10. Chocolate: Like greasy foods, chocolate can coat your fingers as it melts against the warmth of your skin, leaving its mark anywhere you touch. Try to clean it off the steering wheel and you could end up unintentionally swerving.

Here's the reasoning behind how these foods ended up on the list.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trees Arrive By Bike

Anyone can go to a tree lot and buy a Christmas tree, but how many can get them delivered? Especially via bike? A group in Portland is delivering trees behind their bikes as a fundraiser for the less fortunate. Here's the story.

Law Enforcement Targetting Drunk Drivers

It's that time of year again when more people are out celebrating the holiday season. And overindulging and driving home. Which means it's that time of year again when more police officers are on the roads looking for impaired drivers. The Coeur d'Alene Press has details on the annual emphasis patrol targetting drunk drivers.

Megaloads: Right Up There With Favre, Woods & James?

For the most part, I have avoided the topic of Megaloads on this blog. I'm not sure why, except that media coverage on it just seemed to go back and forth and I was waiting for more of a solid stance to be taken. And I was kind of tired of hearing about it. Apparently I wasn't the only one. This letter to the editor of the Lewiston Tribune may sum up the thoughts of a lot of people, only in a funnier context.

Letter to the editor: The Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON - My friends and I were discussing which news items we are most tired of reading about: Brett Favre or the megaloads. Maybe we can get Favre to come out here and drive the first megaload off the dock. In addition, maybe we can get Tiger Woods and LeBron James to drive the pilot cars to accompany the first load.

And with a little luck, perhaps as they scream up the highway at 2 a.m. at 15 miles per hour gazing at the scenery in the dark, they might run over a wolf. The ensuing morning article will then wrap up the year's events in one news column and keep lawyers employed for years.

Tom Wright,
Lewiston


Anything Mr. Wright forgot to mention? I notice he didn't get Jesse James cheating on Sandra Bullock in there...

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'll Stop Complaining About Riding In Work Clothes Now

Thanks to @Charles for directing me to this cool photo. I have a couple friends that have tandem bikes and in both cases the husband complains that the wife sits in the back and doesn't pedal so he's essentially hauling her around. Well can you imagine this couple on a tandem?

Harry: "Are you pedaling back there? My goodness woman, what do you weigh?"

Mildred: "It's not me, it's this blankety blank 40 pound dress! Oh fudge, now it's tangled in the spokes!"

This picture is part of a project where historic photos are combined within the same frame as the current landscape, creating an interesting perspective of reality. You can see more historic photos here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Board Requests GARVEE Money For US 95 Project

A news release out of the Idaho Transportation Department says the Idaho Transportation Board yesterday requested $162 million in bonding authority for next year to complete construction of highway improvement projects, including on U.S. 95 in our area.

The bond request is part of the GARVEE Transportation Program approved by the Idaho Legislature. The recommendation still has to be forwarded to Governor Otter and approved by the Legislature. The program uses federal Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds to expedite highway improvements.

In our area, the $162 million would help finance the completion of the US 95, Garwood to Sagle project. The $79.4 million project is approximately 12 miles from Chilco to Granite. It will be widened and realigned to a four lane divided highway with new interchanges at Chilco, Bunco Road and at Idaho 54 in Athol.

It will improve safety and traffic flow by removing several intersections and rail crossings. Construction could begin in the summer of 2011.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gas Prices On The Rise

A late-year rally in oil prices has helped boost the national average price for regular grade gasoline nearly a dime in the past week alone. This week marks the first time that Idahoans will pay less, on average, than their national counterparts --going all the way back to January 26 of this year.

Oil moved higher late last week, and gas prices quickly followed suit. For the past ten months, Idahoans have paid an average monthly price of 15 cents more per gallon, but there have been points in time when Gem State motorists were paying as much as nearly 30 cents a gallon more.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Much Have You Hauled?

What are some of the more unusual items you've hauled on a bike? Everyone brings a water bottle for hydration, but how about this load of water bottles? Ever drag around your own keg of beer? Or how about your pets? Here are some other odd items people have managed to haul on their bikes, from Wired. I think the strangest thing I've hauled was a crockpot. It was empty though, unfortunately, as I was coming home from a work potluck. What have you hauled?

Citylink Ridership Numbers

The November Citylink numbers are down from the previous month, but still up from the same time period a year ago. Here are the most recent ridership numbers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Proposal Would Require Cameras In Every Car

I blogged recently about a move to require equipment in cars that would disable cell phone use. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is calling for all new cars to be built with backup cameras. The auto industry hasn't come forward with a stance on the suggestion yet, but many think they won't support it as it could be very expensive to equip every car with this technology.

Here's the story from Bloomberg.com.

Public Meeting Scheduled For Harrison Road Project

The Eastside Highway District is hosting a public meeting and asking for your input on a project to pave the gravel section of Harrison Road. The Coeur d'Alene Press has details on the project, as well as more information on the open house meeting.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How Good Are Your Plow Operators Doing?

From the Spokesman-Review's 'Huckleberries' blog under the heading of 'Scanner Traffic:'

9:59 a.m.- One CdA snowplow operator to another: “People should think we’re doing a good job out here, after watching the news about Spokane last night. We are doing a good job.”

For those of you who have travelled through both Kootenai and Spokane counties lately, do you agree? Why?

Stop Signs Didn't Install Themselves

Here's an interesting, yet kind of frightening, story out of Rhode Island. Apparently nearly 700 stop signs recently popped up in the city of Cranston that hadn't been approved, or installed, by the City.

A month-long (that's right, it took an entire month to get to the bottom of this) investigation, installed at intersections with state roads, showed they were installed by the state Department of Transportation, following a state statute that requires drivers to stop before entering a state road.

This is part of why KMPO exists; to make sure all the area jurisdictions are communicating when it comes to transportation projects. Twice a month, we all sit down in a room and discuss what everyone's doing. Once a month its with the elected officials that make the decisions (KMPO Board meetings) and the other time its at our Kootenai County Area Transportation Team meeting, when the engineers and planners behind the projects discuss the technical aspects of what they're working on. Keep in mind that you're always welcome to attend.

Drugged Driving Numbers Up

Everyone knows that drunk driving causes traffic accidents, but new statistics are showing that about 1 in 5 drivers who were killed last year in car crashes tested positive for drugs.

That's nearly 4,000 drivers who were killed in 2009, or 18% of the nearly 22,000 drivers killed last year. Here's more from KLEW News on what the National Highway Safety Adminstration is calling a growing problem.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

CDA Snow Update

Wet, slushy snow conditions are causing delays for Coeur d'Alene Street Department personnel plowing residential areas. Crews are working 24/7 with four loader snow gate & grader residential plow teams on days, and three loader/snow gate & grader plow teams on nights.

Truck plows are used on arterials, hills, collectors, and emergency routes, and DO NOT have snow gates. Snow gates only reduce berms in driveways – they do not eliminate the berm.

Subdivisions in the north part of the city generally receive more wind and drifted snow, and have some streets that are narrower. Street crews hope to have all residential areas plowed by today, but equipment does break down and this process is slow.

Fun & Inexpensive Idaho Gift

Looking for a holiday gift that will give your family or friends something to do when the weather gets better? The Idaho Transportation Department's Idaho Highway Historical Marker Guide is a $5 that fits in a stocking as easily as a motor vehicle glove's compartment.

The guide offers a glimpse of Idaho's history through the state's 244 historical signs and their descriptions. The guide connects Idaho's history with the state's scenic geography, tying events and personalities to specific places.

The guide is available by sending a check or money order for $5 (includes tax) to Idaho Transportation Department, Office of Communications, P.O. Box 7129, Boise, ID 83707.

Hammond To Chair Senate Transportation Committee

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, is the new chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He'll be the first transportation chair from North Idaho in some time.

Hammond will give up his seat on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to take on the transportation chairmanship. He’ll also continue to serve on the Senate Health & Welfare Committee. Here's more on this move for him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Bridge Is One Nutty Idea

I've heard of animal underpasses like the one they're building on Snoqualmie Pass to keep deer, moose, elk and other critters off the freeway, but this is something else entirely.

This picture (courtesy of the Associated Press) is of the 'Nutty Narrows Bridge' for squirrels in Longview, WA. A ceremony was held yesterday to mark the re-opening of the bridge, after it was closed for a while for maintenance (what kind of maintenance does a squirrel bridge require??). The ceremony included speeches, a reverend to bless the bridge, cheerleaders, a ribbon cutting and a release of doves.

Don't worry, the event wasn't bankrolled by the Department of Transportation. Instead, it was planned by the Longview Sandbaggers Club, a group known for elaborate jokes. Following the ceremony, they celebrated at a local hotel with cake and squirrel-themed cocktails, which I'd like to know more about.

The City of Longview was in on it though. Parks Department workers attached the bridge to trees on opposite sides of busy Olympia Way using a cherry picker. Longview's Mayor said the bridge was built in 1963 by a local builder who “saw the carnage and destruction of our furry friends” and wanted to provide them safe passage above the busy street.

Hmmm... all of a sudden my idea for getting burn barrels at local bus stops in the winter doesn't seem like such a nutty idea.

Some Airport Delays and Cancellations

This weather isn't just slowing down people travelling on the roads, but there have been some cancellations and delays at the airport too. So be sure to check your flight here before you leave home.

I just checked and it looks like most flights are on time now, but one to Seattle was cancelled. Earlier this morning was a different story though. My parents haven't been on a vacation in years where they actually flew somewhere just to have fun. So I was shocked when they booked a trip to Maui. They were so excited when I drove them to Spokane International Airport last night. They were a lot less excited when I talked to them this morning and they were STILL at the airport. Their first flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems and their second was delayed by several hours due to weather. They were switched to another flight and were supposed to be getting on a plane around 9:30 this morning. I haven't heard from them since so they must have gotten out of there. They said there were a LOT of other people waiting for cancelled and delayed flights as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday You Old Airbag!

Although perhaps not as influential as the seatbelt, the airbag’s contribution to vehicle safety is significant – and it's being recognized this week because it's the 30th birthday of the airbag.

Here are some airbag 'fun facts:'

- The first car to have an airbag was a Mercedes.
- The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say airbags have saved more than 28,000 lives in the US alone
- The control systems for airbags have the processing power of the ‘supercomputers’ used in space exploration 25 years ago

Want to know more about airbags? You asked for it, from Traffic Technology Today.

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Bricklayer Required For This Brick Road

Our area has some really cool brick roads under the current pavement. Bricks are beautiful and durable, so why don't they make roads out of them any longer? Because it takes a huge effort to produce them.

The invention of a new machine that rolls out an almost 'instant road' could change all that though. Here's how the 'Tiger-Stone' works.

CDA Snow Removal Guide

With another storm on the way tonight, Coeur d'Alene residents may want to take a look at the City's 'Snow Guide' for a refresher on how snow removal works in the City.

The guide includes the system of prioritized roadways to be plowed/deiced first, how much snow must fall before snow removal efforts kick into gear, a discussion of 'problem areas,' and 'do's and don'ts.' For example, one 'do' is "Take it easy shoveling - it is hard work and has been linked to heart attacks." Good advice. That's why I fake a hernia every winter in order to get the neighbor to shovel my driveway.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Car Warming Up 'Borrowed'

You here it every year, DON'T LEAVE YOUR CAR UNATTENDED WHILE WARMING IT UP. Here's why: A Coeur d'Alene man recently caught up to his car as it was leaving his driveway, to be told by the young man inside that he was 'borrowing it.' Yeah, I've heard that one before.

Here's what happened, from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

No Recommendation From Task Force On Gas Tax

Eighteen months and nine meetings later, Gov. Butch Otter’s transportation task force still doesn't have a firm recommendation for transportation funding. That means no word yet on a gas tax increase.

The Idaho Reporter has the latest on the task force's lack of specifics.

Holiday Closures

A reminder that with the holiday tomorrow, all area government offices will be closed Thursday and Friday, November 25th and 26th. That includes KMPO.

Everything opens again at 8 a.m. on Monday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Holiday Nog If You're Driving

The Idaho Transportation Department just sent out their annual news release reminding you not to drink and drive over the holidays.

Idaho law enforcement agencies are conducting education campaigns and high-visibility enforcement patrols statewide searching for drunk or impaired drivers through Nov. 30. ITD's Office of Highway Operations and Safety is providing funds through a federal grant for the overtime patrol effort.

Last year, impaired driving contributed to 1,567 crashes on Idaho's highways and caused 65 fatalities.

Slow Going On Some Area Roads

It's kind of crazy out there on the roads folks. I didn't have any trouble getting to work, but my route is mostly on I90, which was pretty easy going. Ryan in our office got in just before 10 a.m. from a meeting and said that he had no problems getting around either, that Kootenai County has less snow than Spokane, but the wind is blowing more. He also said that the Coeur d'Alene Airport offices are closed due to drifting snow. The freeway was moving pretty smoothly he said, except for in areas where it was slowed down by plows.

It's not all smooth going out there though. Here's the Spokesman-Review's roundup of closed roads, wrecks and other concerns.

And here is the Coeur d'Alene Press' overview of things.

Roadkill Rules Changing

There's a glut of wild turkeys in my neighborhood. Every year I joke that I'm going to hit one with my car and cook it up for Thanksgiving (the joke part of that is me cooking- not hitting an animal with my car). Well, that may not be so farfetched anymore.

Idaho Fish and Game officials are developing new rules that would allow residents to salvage road kill wildlife. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week directed agency staff to research and draft rules that would allow public salvage for personal use and commercial salvage, such as selling pelts.

Existing state rules do not allow for personal or commercial use of accidentally killed wildlife. Earlier this year, Fish and Game officials opposed a bill that would have allowed the public to snatch up roadkill found along the side of the highway. At the time, the agency said it collected information about animals killed on roads to help determine the length of hunting seasons.

Most Wanted List- Of Improvements To Keep You Safe

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a list of critical transportation improvements they feel are needed to reduce transportation accidents and save lives.

The NTSB is an independent agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents and promoting transportation safety. The Board investigates accidents, conducts safety studies, and evaluates the effectiveness of other government agencies' programs for preventing transportation accidents.

The Board develops safety recommendations, based on its investigations and studies, which are issued to Federal, State and local government agencies, and to industry and other organizations in a position to improve transportation safety.

Here are their most recent recommendations. Check them out and let me know if you agree with all of their suggestions. For instance, one item on their list is statewide sobriety checkpoints, which some people feel violates their right to not be stopped without probably cause. They also suggest 'reducing rear-end collisions through use of adaptive cruise control and collision warning system technologies.' Sounds great, but are the car manufacturers going to agree to something that will cost them more?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Group Releases Strategic Plan For Walking In America

America Walks, a nonprofit organization that leads a national coalition of local advocacy groups dedicated to promoting walkable communities, has recently released a draft strategic plan for 2011-2013. The plan includes three focus areas; creating a national unified voice for pedestrians, advancing and defending walking policies, and advancing Community-based campaigns that restore walkability in America.

The strategic plan is available for review and comment. You can take a look at it here. and email comments here by the deadline of December 3.

Here's the American Walks website in case you want to learn more about the organization.

Atlas Trail Dedication CANCELLED

Due to the glut of snow that's just been dumped on us, the Atlas Trail Dedication that was planned for tomorrow has been cancelled. The ceremony was to show appreciation for the folks who made the trail a reality, but it looks like you'll have to wait until next spring to show that appreciation.

Area Roadways Moving Slow

Idaho State Police have been responding to multiple accidents this morning, and approximately 30 crashes and slideoffs in the Coeur d'Alene area yesterday. And personnel at Kootenai Medical Center say they've treated an inordinate number of weather-related injuries. The 'Scanner Traffic' portion of the Spokesman-Review's 'Huckleberries' blog has this big list of traffic challenges.

And this article from the Coeur d'Alene Press sums up area conditions. Interestingly, the comments that follow this article call for cable barriers in the medians like much of Washington state has.

A reminder that if you commute to Spokane, it's a good idea to check out the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center website before hitting the roads. That way you can see conditions on I90 and other arterials and plan accordingly.

Friday, November 19, 2010

LaHood Proposes Cell Phone Blocking Devices In Cars

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says technology that automatically disables cellphones in cars could become mandatory. It's part of his 'Faces of Distracted Driving' campaign, which aims to make motorists aware of the dangers of using their phones while on the road.

Besides a few problems with the idea (how expensive the move would be to car manufacturers, passengers not being able to use their phones either, etc.), some people say this measure is extreme.

The author of this article at Gizmodo.com even compares it to outlawing the transport of alcohol in vehicles, if you were to compare the issue to the anti-drinking and driving campaign.

Blogger Calls Roundabouts A 'Fad'

A blogger over on the Spokesman-Review's 'Huckleberries' blog complained this morning that roundabouts aren't necessary in many cases and are just the current traffic 'fad.'

He does acknowledge that some make sense and commenters on the post point out the safety aspect of roundabouts, but 'Kootenai Conservative' implies that engineers are getting carried away. What's your take on roundabouts? There are undeniable safety advantages to roundabouts but do you think there are too many and they are just a fad or is the construction of several new ones in the area warranted?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

AAA Recommends Higher Fees For Heavy Trucks

AAA Idaho says registration fees for heavy trucks should be jacked up to cover the cost of damage they do to roads. That's the word today in response to a recent independent study concluding that heavy trucks aren't putting up their fair shrae in reltion to the damage they do.

Here's what AAA suggests, from the Idaho Reporter.

Who Needs High Speed Rail When You've Got High Speed Buses?

With the recent elections came a shift in the thought process for several states involving transportation. "All across the country, in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, the voters chose new governors who are opposed to diverting transportation funding to passenger rail," said Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "I believe it would be unwise for the Obama administration to ignore the will of the voters." Here's more on his push for roads, not rails.

Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich (R) asked the Obama administration for permission to repurpose $400 million in high-speed rail funds for highway projects. Kasich says Ohio doesn't need the project. But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Ohio would forfeit the money it doesn't use for high-speed rail.

When the state funds are rejected, LaHood said Monday night, they will be redistributed "in a professional way in places where the money can be well spent."

As always, though, The Onion has ferreted out a solution to this dilemma:
President Obama's proposed high-speed train system will be replaced with a fleet of buses that will rocket along highways at speeds up to 165 mph.


Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan

5th & Sherman Signal Going Bye Bye

The signal at 5th Street and Sherman Avenue will be decommissioned starting this week after stop signs are installed on 5th Street. A review by the city’s Engineering Department shows that the vehicle and pedestrian cross traffic is minimal and the signal is not really warranted. The signal is over 20 years old and does not respond to actual traffic volumes or movement, making it extremely inefficient.

Eliminating the signal will improve traffic progression on Sherman Avenue and improve the service to the side streets without compromising safety. A review of the intersection at 6th Street and Sherman Avenue revealed that the vehicle and pedestrian traffic is exactly the same as the 5th and Sherman intersection, and that there were very few accidents. Poles and mast arms will be completely removed on the corners that don’t have street lights, leaving just the poles where there is a street light on them. The “Walk/Don’t Walk” indicators will also be removed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bypass Construction Leads To Huge Archeological Dig

I know that Sandpoint isn't in Kootenai County, this story was too cool not to include on the blog.

Researchers are piecing together Sandpoint's history based on an archeological dig they're required to do because of the US 95 Bypass construction. And they've found some pretty interesting stuff.

Doug Nadvornick, a correspondent for NPR news, wrote this article for the Idaho Transportation Deparmtent's 'Transporter' newsletter.

CDA Leaf Pickup Update

Leaf pickup is in full swing in Coeur d'Alene this week. Crews currently are working their way east from 11th street to 15th street. Harrison is being used as a boundary to the north. This area should be completed by tonight, then they will move across 15th and work east of 15th street Sherman to Harrison.

Areas completed include South of Sherman, Fort Grounds, North and South of Forest Cemetery to Walnut Ave., and Government Way to 11th between Harrison and Sherman. If you're in one of those areas and still have leaves, that means you need to bag them and haul them to the transfer station.

While you're contemplating all that work, here's a nice video to watch from the City of Coeur d'Alene of their leaf crews in action.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One Interchange Could Hold Up Another

The Coeur d'Alene Press today published an article on the effect the Beck Road interchange could have on the proposed Greensferry Road interchange. The Press only publishes their front page stories on their website, and this wasn't a front page story, so instead of providing a link, you'll just have to read it here:

While one new interchange on Interstate 90 at Post Falls is slated to be built starting next year, another is in limbo because of it.

City administrator Eric Keck said the interchange at Greensferry Road, which has been in the works for about 10 years, is at a "critical crossroads."

He said the project won't gain federal approval based on traffic models that consider the planned interchange to the west at Beck Road near Cabela's.

Keck said hope for approval of a full interchange at Greensferry rather than just an overpass now rests with extending the traffic model year out from 2030 to 2035.

The City Council tonight will consider allowing the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization to perform more modeling for the Federal Highway Administration to consider when determining how soon the Greensferry interchange is justified. The cost for the modeling would be free, Keck said.

"As it stands, the full Greensferry interchange is in jeopardy," Keck said.

While reviewing both the Greensferry and Beck interchange proposals, the feds questioned why separate traffic models were used for each project, Keck said. The Greensferry model did not contemplate the Beck interchange when it was submitted to the FHWA earlier.

"The resultant work to update the model to tie in Beck Road created both a time delay and caused a traffic volume forecast that now indicates that the Greensferry interchange would not meet traffic thresholds that would warrant the incursion into the freeway system," Keck said.

Regardless whether the FHWA ultimately approves the Greensferry project with an extended modeling year, a full interchange will be delayed further, Keck said.

The city has already spent $350,000 on preliminary work for the Greensferry project and the Urban Renewal Agency another $168,000. The project is intended to improve mobility, emergency response and benefit economic development.

Keck said it's not a matter of if a Greensferry interchange or overpass is needed, but when. He said the FHWA acknowledges the local effort and support for the project and is willing to consider an extended traffic model.

And, before the city spends more funds on the project, the City Council is being asked if it wants to have additional modeling done in hopes of gaining federal approval, Keck said.

A full interchange has had the most support, but some officials now wonder if the project needs to be pared down to just an overpass, Keck said.

Meanwhile, with FHWA approval, construction on the Beck Road interchange near Stateline is expected to start in 2011 and be completed in 2012. It is being designed by Foursquare Properties, the Carlsbad, Calif., developer of the Pointe at Post Falls anchored by Cabela's.

Foursquare will recoup the cost of the estimated $28 million project through temporary suspension of state sales tax collections at Cabela's. The interchange is expected to increase business construction activity in the project.

In other business, the council will consider whether to allow Joe Dobson to apply for a 5-acre annexation for a limited commercial and multi-family project at the northwest corner of Chase and Poleline. Dobson's annexation for a single-family housing project was approved in 2008, but the plans were put on hold and have since been modified.

The council will hold an annexation policy workshop at 5 p.m. The regular meeting starts at 6 p.m. at 408 N. Spokane St.

Poll Says Respondents Would Rather Pay More For Gas Taxes

Results from a poll done by the Coeur d'Alene Press say that people would rather pay higher gas taxes than income taxes or lose some Social Security benefits. I wonder if that's because gas is something you can control how much you spend on. If money is really tight one month, maybe you take the bus for a while instead of driving, or cut out those trips to the store for two items.

Here are the results of the poll. Of the three options, which would you prefer? Higher gas taxes, less Social Security benefits or higher income taxes?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Morning Elk Sighting

This isn't the best picture because I took it with the world's worst cell phone camera just as it was getting light this morning, but it gives you an idea of the other critters out there who are also using our roadways. This was a herd of about 30 elk in a field out by Stateline. They were alongside the road, but started crossing right after I went by, causing delays for a couple cars behind me. So slow down out there, especially in the dark. There are animals crossing the road, and they don't really care if there's one of those 'deer crossing' signs up or not.

Traffic Death Count

The latest numbers are in and the state of Idaho has had 190 traffic deaths this year. Yikes folks, take it easy out there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ready to Roll...

It looks like the State of Idaho is finally ready to let the megaloads roll:

-- photo and story source Spokesman Review

The Idaho Transportation Department issued permits Wednesday for the first mega-loads proposed for U.S. Highway 12 in north-central Idaho, but the four giant truckloads won’t roll just yet.

The agency said it is suspending the shipments until after a hearing officer rules on a petition for intervention and hearings by residents and businesses along the route – a petition that is being vigorously opposed by ConocoPhillips, which wants to send the big loads of oil refinery equipment through Idaho to its refinery in Billings. The truckloads are so large they’ll take up both lanes of the two-lane highway, a designated scenic byway that runs along the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers.

Late Tuesday, ConocoPhillips filed a legal brief with ITD arguing against allowing anyone to intervene in the case and in favor of letting the company go ahead with the shipments. The four giant loads of oil refinery equipment already are at the Port of Lewiston. The Lewiston Tribune reported Tuesday that the first two loads already have been attached to semi-trailers. More Here

Shweeb- Its Like Monorail Only You Power It

So what's the future of personal transportation? A member of Spokane's Bicycle Advisory Board introduced me 'Shweeb' and thinks it could possibly be the next big thing. Shweeb is an integration of the monorail and the recumbent bicycle- kind of like our gondolas only on a smaller scale, and powered by you. So not only are you getting where you need to go, but you're also getting exercise doing it.

Currently Shweeb is only available as a ride at an amusement park in New Zealand, but it's creators think it could be built in a city somewhere as a public transit system. Here's the Shweeb website in case you want to contact the company to have one installed in your backyard.

And here is a video about how Shweeb works. It looks pretty cool, if you can get past the creepiness of 'Dermett' the show host, long enough to watch it.



What are the pros and cons you see about Shweeb? Think people would use it if it was built here or are we Americans too lazy and too in love with our cars?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

US 95 Switched To New Alignment

The Idaho Transportation Department has just put out word that traffic on U.S. 95, from Wyoming Avenue to Idaho 53, has been switched to the new two-lane southbound alignment.

The highway is now a four-lane divided highway from Interstate 90 to Ohio Match Road.

A new local road on the west side of the highway, from Bentz Road to Lancaster Road, also has opened to traffic. The new road, called Warren Street, provides access to Tobler Marina, Gargoyle Granite, Little Tree Storage, Curwen's Body & Paint and Joe's Sandblasting.

Access onto U.S. 95 from Bentz Road has been permanently closed. Lancaster Road and Boekel Road are fully opened to traffic. A traffic signal at Lancaster will be constructed next spring.

The highway and new local access road also will receive an additional layer of pavement next year, which will complete the project. The speed limit on this section of U.S. 95 is 55 miles per hour.

This $6 million project was funded with savings from federal highway stimulus projects bid earlier this year.

Ness Outlines ITD Reorg Plan

You've probably heard some of this before, but Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness recently outlined a realignment of the agency that aims to improve customer service, efficiency and accountability. It's also expected to save taxpayers at least $1.5 million over the next two years.

It's Ness' comments in this article from the Bonner County Daily Bee that interested me. For instance, “You show me anybody — any private sector company or public sector entity — that is bringing in the same revenues that they were 15 or 20 years ago that are surviving. You probably can’t find any.” Wow Mr. Ness. You mean business. And good for you.

Government Offices Closed Thursday For Holiday, But Not KMPO

Guess what tomorrow is? A federal holiday, that's what. That means all local government offices will be closed tomorrow, EXCEPT for KMPO. Not that we don't love our veterans, but somehow way back before I was here, staff chose to take a couple holidays as 'floaters' that we can use anytime. Like in the summer, which is when I prefer to have days off.

Anyway, while we can help you with your transportation planning needs tomorrow, local City Halls and other government offices and facilities will be closed.

Everything opens up again Friday morning at 8.

Strahorn To Remain One-Way At Least A Little Longer

We've been hearing complaints from some folks about the conversion of half a mile of Strahorn Road in Hayden to a one-way southbound street.

Despite the complaints though, City Council members are asking drivers to bear with it for a little while, then let them know how they like it after getting used to the change.

The change to a one-way street was made for several reasons. You can read about the pros and cons of it in this Coeur d'Alene Press article.

I haven't driven this section of Strahorn since it was changed to one-way. Have any of you folks? What did you think?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

SRTMC Helps Commuters Avoid Winter Driving Delays

I heard a four letter word on the news this morning. That's right. Snow. Is it too early to start saying 'Bah Humbug?' because that's how I feel. Snow if fun to play in- for a while- but driving in it gets old REAL fast. All those collisions, closed roads, slideoffs, etc. can really slow you down.

For those Idahoans that commute to Spokane (and I know there are a lot of you) there is a way to avoid all that mess. It's called the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) website. The site is high-tech and real-time with information for all of Spokane County. 24-hours a day you can watch over 70 live traffic cameras, read about incidents that are automatically updated as they happen, and be alerted to road closures and delays to plan your commute to avoid backups and dangerous areas.

SRTMC staff monitor the traffic cameras to identify any trouble areas and alert the proper authorities before a minor problem becomes a major backup. And they have a really cool new video wall in there (shown in the picture) that I think needs to be hijacked for a Super Bowl party. Unfortunately, no one listens to me around here.

New Road Name On Hold

Work is in progress to name a new section of roadway off Lancaster Road after Vernon Baker, the Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran from St. Maries who passed away this summer.

County Commissioners are running into some problems though; such as that most of the road is already named. Here's the story from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Happy Birthday To Citylink

Happy fifth birthday Citylink! It's been a crazy ride, increasing from less than 10,000 riders in your first year to over 600,000 this year. That's a lot of growth! Hope you enjoy your birthday gift of five new buses, because we know you need them.

Here's how Citylink is doing on it's fifth birthday, from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Annual Roadkil Count Is Going Up

I drove a stretch of road out near Stateline last night that was probably about a mile long. I drove it again first thing this morning and saw some pretty gruesome sights that hadn't been there the night before. The roadkill toll in that one mile alone included a turkey, two deer, a raccoon and one REALLY big bull elk that must have left some serious damage to someone's car. I wanted to take a picture of the elk just for the impact but thought that might be too ghoulish.

My point is that its getting dark earlier and its that time of year when the animals come back down to feed, so maybe you want to slow it down in rural areas, especially after dark, and be observant out there.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oberstar Replacement Could Be Boon For WA Transportation

One casualty of the Republican wins in last week's elections was U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Minnesota Democrat was defeated in a narrow vote, which could have major implications in the transportation industry. Here's an article from the Dallas News about the turnover.

The presumption is that the ranking Republican on the Transportation committee, John Mica of Florida, will replace Oberstar as chairman. Mica not only helped secure funding for the North Spokane Corridor in past years, but is also reportedly a friend of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, which could be advantageous to our transportation situation.

New ITD Chief of Operations

Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness announced late last week that he'd hired a new chief of operations.

Paul Steinman will lead 1,300 employees that work in the department's highway operations, maintenance, construction and planning programs. He will assume his duties in December.

Steinman recently served as state construction engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation where he was responsible for a $3 billion annual highway construction program. Steinman also held a variety of engineering positions during a 20-year career at the Florida and Michigan departments of transportation. He is a licensed professional engineer in North Carolina, Michigan and Florida. Steinman has a bachelor's degree in engineering from Michigan State University.

Article Says Economy/Other Factors Are Moving More People Toward Urban Areas

Our 'sister agency' Spokane Regional Transportation Council, has been working on a Transportation Vision Project for almost a year now. The goal is to identify an ideal long-term transportation system for Spokane County, considering all modes of transportation.

This article from MSN backs up a lot of things we've heard here at SRTC during the course of the project. The article talks about how demographic shifts and changing values will increase demand for pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use communities in both urban and suburban settings. The particular 'shifts' the author is talking about include the growth of two-person households, the need for the aging baby boomer population to have better access to services, and the current economy allowing less people to buy homes, meaning more people will live in apartments than in the past.

There are always going to be people who want to live on their acreage away from others, but do you see this movement toward more urban settings or do you think it's just a fad?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Statewide Plan Open To Comment

The Idaho Transportation Department is looking for comments and feedback on a plan to improve safety, mobility and economic vitality. "Idaho On The Move" is ITD's long-range plan to enhance those areas. Over the next 20 years, transportation activities and projects that improve safety, mobility and economic vitality will be priorities.

The document contains information on management principles, investment strategies and implementation of the plan. Other subjects covered include the use of limited resources, the importance of partnerships with state, federal and local agencies, and providing exceptional customer service.

You can view the planonline here and submit comments via e-mail here.

New Legislators Coming To CDA To Talk Transportation

The North Idaho Chamber of Commerce (NICC) will host a legislative tour for all newly elected Idaho legislators and executive officers this weekend and one of the major focus areas will be transportation issues facing Idaho.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness will speak on the tour. Little, chairman of the Governor's Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding, will provide an update on the task force's work, set to be completed in December prior to the start of the legislative session. The task force is examining traditional and non-traditional ways Idaho can fund its transportation needs now and in the future.

Brian Ness, ITD director, will provide an overview and details of a plan to significantly realign the organizational structure of the transportation department. The decision to realign the department came after nine months of meeting with employees, elected officials and customers, and assessing how the department operates.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

October Citylink Numbers Down Slightly

The October number of Citylink riders is down overall from the previous month- but not by much. Citylink staff say they expected a drop of some sort when all of the kids were back in school (colleges included). They also suspect that part of the drop in numbers is due to some minor changes implemented in October that make late night wait times a tad bit longer. Here are the October numbers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ITD Being Overhauled

The Idaho Transportation Department is getting a major overhaul in an effort to cut the budget. New ITD Director Brian Ness says he plans to streamline the operation by cutting several management positions. The Spokesman-Review has the story.

Talk About Ironic...

What are the chances? You're dressed as a breathalyzer machine and you get pulled over for drunk driving. That's what happened to this Nebraska man over the weekend. It's not all that newsworthy but I thought it was funny considering the irony involved.

All CDA Your Snow & Plowing Questions Answered

Did you know that Coeur d'Alene names it's snowstorms and the first of this year will be named “Abracadabra?” Neither did I, but I like it. So why does the city name storms? And how long does it take to complete a citywide snow plowing? What is the Snow Gate Program? All very good questions that can be answered by this thread on the City of Coeur d'Alene Blog.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beck Road Interchange Gets Federal Approval

The Idaho Transportation Department has just sent out a news release saying the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the new interchange on Interstate 90 at Beck Road in Post Falls. Final approval of the Interchange Justification Report (IJR) hinges on completion of all environmental work for the project.

The IJR recommends a new standard diamond interchange that would accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists and improves traffic operations.

The project is the first in Idaho to use the State Tax Anticipation Revenue (STAR) program to finance a highway improvement project. The Idaho Legislature approved the STAR program in 2007. The program compensates developers who pay for interchanges or highway improvements that access new commercial/retail complexes.

The developer and its consulting engineering firm still must complete an Environmental Assessment and receive approval for a "Finding of No Significant Impacts." Once the environmental process is complete and approved, work will begin on design and construction of the interchange.

When completed, the state will assume control over maintenance and operation of the facility.

KMPO Board Meeting This Thursday

This Thursday at 1:30 p.m. is the monthly KMPO Board meeting. Here's the agenda. If you see anything on there you feel the need to know more about, feel free to attend the meeting. Everyone is welcome. It's at Post Falls Council Chambers. The Council Chambers are on the first floor of City Hall at 408 N. Spokane St.

Commissioners Uphold Controversial LID Decision

Despite citizen protests, East Side Highway District commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to uphold approval of three local improvement districts, which will match federal dollars for overlays in Coeur d'Alene and Harrison.

Commissioners say they understand the concerns of the residents who would have to contribute to the LIDs, but don't want to lose out on one-time federal funding that would cover a large chunk of the project costs. The Commissioners may not have the last word however. Here's the latest from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

BNSF Suing Kootenai County

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. is suing Kootenai County over new regulations proposed for the Hauser diesel refueling depot. The railroad says operations at the depot are governed by federal transportation law, and, as a result, counties lack the ability to impose their own rules.

Here's the latest from the Spokesman-Review.

Trail Maintenance Volunteers Needed

The City of Coeur d'Alene Parks Department is asking for your help this Saturday, November 6th to do some maintenance to the trails on Canfield Mountain.

Volunteers are needed to help 'soften' a few key switchbacks and to widen a narrow section of the trail. Tools will be provided, but bring your own gloves, rain gear, eye protection, and water.

The work starts at 9 a.m. so meet at the park. You can contact Trails Coordinator Monte McCully at 208-292-5766 for more info.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arrangements Made So Bus Riders Not Left Out In Cold

Citylink managers have come up with a temporary solution to leaving bus riders out in the cold while they wait to transfer buses.

Due to a gap in the schedule, Citylink service is interrupted at Riverstone for 30-40 minutes. Drivers normally take a break there, asking riders to get off the bus so they can go get something to eat. With no shelter though, that can be a long wait in the elements.

Here's the compromise they've come up with, from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Airport Body Scanner Q & A

Because Spokane International Airport recently got body scanners, I thought you might be interested in some frequently asked questions, and answers, regarding the scanners. For instance, are there health risks associated with the scanners? How does the technology work? Is there an alternative security procedure if I don't want to go through the scanner? Are the images of you in the scanner saved?

For the answer to all those questions and more, here's an article from the Seattle Times.

Be Observant- Folks Are Out Cleaning Our Highways

The Idaho Transportation Department wants to warn you to be alert while driving area highways this fall, because there are a lot of people out cleaning up the roadways. Folks who take part in the 'Adopt-A-Highway' program are asked to clean up litter twice a year, usually in the spring and fall. That means now is the time of year when many of them are out.

There are 182 groups cleaning 329 miles of roadway on the state highway system in the five northern counties of Idaho. These volunteers save Idaho taxpayers thousands of dollars each year, by allowing ITD to use its limited resources to efficiently maintain and operate the state's highways.

In 2009, more than 1,900 participants spent approximately 4,000 hours picking up trash. That amounted to 3,461 sacks, or 120,645 pounds of litter. If you'd like to join them by adopting a highway, call Adopt-A-Highway District Coordinator Diane Dubos at 208-772-1297.

New Transportation Bill Moving Forward

Here's good news for KMPO, if it's accurate. USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood last week said he's received a green light from the White House to move on the country’s next 6-year transportation bill. That's good news because the last bill expired months ago, was extended a couple times, and expires again on Dec. 31, 2010. Many projects have been at a standstill, waiting for word on a new bill, as funding is pretty much tied up until then. It's hard to plan for the future when you don't have parameters to work with.

USDOT officials now expect to see a full reauthorization proposal from USDOT and the White House next February in the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2012. In the meantime, a 1-2 year reauthorization of the current transportation bill will probably be passed.

Here's more information from the 'Mobilizing the Region' blog.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Statewide Aggressive Driving Emphasis Patrol Starts Friday

If you have a tendency to drive agressively, speed or not wear your seatbelt, knock that off! Not only are you risking your, and other people's lives, but law enforcement is also looking for you.

A statewide aggressive driving emphasis patrol starts tomorrow (Friday) and goes through Nov. 14. Officers are looking for speeders, tailgaters, those not buckled in, and red light runners, among other traffic law violations.

Goggles Give Drivers Sensation They're Driving Drunk

I don't know if they still do this, but when I took drivers education back in high school, they had these things called 'simulators' you would sit in that were like a driving video game. It was extremely low tech. But my how the times have changed. Technology is now allowing kids to experience the sensation of driving drunk, while they're actually sober, in an effort to reduce drug and alcohol use. Here's the story from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

5th & Sherman Light Flashes Now

The City of Coeur d'Alene wants you to know that the signal at 5th Street and Sherman Avenue in Coeur d'Alene has been intentionally put on flash to help make the intersection more efficient. The signal is over 20 years old and is not traffic-actuated, therefore must run on a predetermined time which does not respond to actual traffic volumes or movement.

Because of this, vehicles moving east and west tend to sit at a red light when there is no cross traffic, which is both frustrating and inefficient. Using a flashing yellow signal where 5th intersects Sherman Avenue, and a flashing red on 5th Street where it intersects Sherman, will allow cross traffic to proceed when there is a sufficient gap and not have to wait for a “green light.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Sky Couch Will Let You Get More Comfy In The Air

I'm not sure if this is cool or creepy. Air New Zealand recently unveiled a design for coach seating that turns three seats into a “sky couch,’’ letting 'couples snuggle, kids jump around or single travelers spread out.' The part about single travelers spreading out is good with me, but couples snuggling and kids jumping around on a flight? That's what I go on vacation to get away from.

The seats have large flip-up cushions that fill the space between the end of the seat and the next row of seats. Arm rests retract for a flat surface. The new design will go into service in December. Travelers will have to buy the three “Sky couch” seats together, even if only two are traveling. Here's a video of what it will look like. Let me know what you think.

Citylink Recognized As Outstanding Rural Transit System

For the past 15 years, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has recognized transit providers that have overcome significant challenges to deliver reliable service to the public in rural areas.

This year, Kootenai County's Citylink was one of six transit systems recognized nationwide with an Outstanding Rural Transit System award. Here's more on this honor from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's blog.

Congratulations Citylink! It's good to see your hard work is being recognized.

Parking Ordinance Could Cost Businesses More

The Hayden City Council is considering revising its parking ordinance, which could increase startup costs for businesses. The proposed revision would affect landscaping in parking areas near businesses by requiring certain landscaping in order to make parking lots more aesthetically appealing.

Here's the story from the Coeur d'Alene Press. What's your thought on this; should businesses be required to make their lots look 'prettier' or is it a waste of time and money as it's just a place you park your car?

Fernan Lake Road Construction Finished

After what seemed like a long stretch, construction on Fernan Lake Road is complete and the road is open. Ahead of schedule even. WWWAAAYYY ahead of schedule.

The road isn't just a lot smoother and less curvy, but has had a lot of safety measures implemented as well. Here are the details from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ITD Launches New Low-Bandwidth Version of 511 Website

The Idaho Transportation Department has unveiled a new low-bandwidth version of the popular 511 traveler information website. That's because, in the past, new road information took as long as 15 minutes to be displayed. On the new website, updated information will appear to users almost instantly.

The new version of the website also provides easier web navigation, while offering the same information, but in an easier-to-use format. The information on the site includes winter driving conditions, accident information, construction information, highway web cameras, commercial vehicle restrictions and mountain pass information.

Here's what's new on the site:

- Easier-to-understand location descriptions, providing distance and direction to the nearest town.
- Users will now be able to access maps of individual highways - even close-ups of sections of highways - to get a better picture of current conditions
- The website now offers weather information from 83 Road Weather Information Stations across the state.
- For those who find the print size on the web page difficult to read, users now can modify the size of the displayed print at any time.

Here's the link if you want to try the new site out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Transit System Proposed For Sandpoint Area

Sandpoint isn't within KMPO's jurisdiction, but the following article is interesting to me because the proposed transit system for Sandpoint it talks about could benefit all the people from Kootenai and Spokane counties who visit there.

The service would be free and go between the cities of Ponderay, Kootenai, Sandpoint and Dover. Here's more information on this proposed transit system from the Spokesman-Review.

CDA Leaf Pick-Up Starts Nov. 8

The City of Coeur d'Alene starts their annual leaf pick-up program on Monday, November 8. Because leaves can plug catch basins and storm drains, please be sure to keep leaves on your property until Monday, November 1st. At that time, you can rake your leaves and pine needles about one foot away from the gutter line to allow for water drainage.

Leaves will be picked up only once. Please do not put leaves in the street after city crews have completed your area, and do not include bagged leaves, branches, rubble, or refuse.

City crews are unable provide a precise schedule of where leaf pick-up will take place. Pick-up will start south of Sherman Avenue and move north. Completion is expected by Wednesday, November 24th.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Inland Pacific Hub Call For Proposals

Phase 2 of the Inland Pacific Hub (IPH) process will start soon. The IPH is a project aimed at transforming the Inland Northwest into a hub for commerce, vital to the global economy.

KMPO's sister agency, SRTC, will manage that project and is seeking proposals from qualified firms to identify potential transportation and economic investments that will enhance the development of the Inland Pacific Hub.

The overall objective is to identify and recommend actions, strategies and programs that can be implemented to strengthen the competitive position of the IPH region (both domestically and globally).

RFP details can be found on the IPH website or you can click here to request a RFP packet. Please provide a contact name, company name, address, telephone, and email. The packet will be emailed back to you.

Signs Changing To Accomodate Older Drivers

I've been hearing a lot of concern lately about the large number of baby boomers on our roadways, and how there are going to have to be some changes to the national transportation system to accomodate them. Well apparently someone is listening.

In a nod to the fading eyesight of the senior set, the federal government is requiring communities to change street name signs from all capital letters to a combination of capital and lowercase letters. The government says that makes them easier to read.

Not everyone is happy about though, particularly the jurisdictions paying for these changes. Here's the story from USA Today.

KMPO October Newsletter Now Available

Want the synopsis of what KMPO has been working on for the past few months?
Well here's our quarterly newsletter. Take a look and let me know if you have any questions.

Census Participation Rate Numbers Available

Good job America! The U.S. Census Bureau announced this week that 74% of households in the US filled out and mailed back their 2010 Census questionnaire, matching the final mail participation rate achieved in the 2000 Census.

Spokane County had 78% participation rate and Kootenai County 77%, although I can't find on the Census site how that compares to 2000's participation rate. For those of you really interested in the numbers, you can narrow it down even further to cities and towns by clicking here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still Taking TIP Comments

Ryan and I staffed the public meeting for the 2011-2015 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) last night. Attendance was modest but we got some good feedback. A lot of people had questions about Greensferry, Beck Road and Pleasant View. And one woman had safety concerns about some areas where there is a concentration of children, such as Mullan Avenue in the west 200 block and 20th and 21st from Spokane to Chase Park, where a lot of young people live.

It's not too late to get your comments in if you couldn't attend the meeting last night. Here's a link to the TIP online. Look it over, then send any questions or comments to us here and we'll get back to you. All your comments need to be in by 4 p.m. on November 1.

PETA & ITD?

PETA and the Idaho Transportation Department may not seem like logical partners but they're teaming up to get the word out about leaving pets in hot cars.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been lobbying ITD regularly regarding the issue, and earlier this month ITD's driver services manager informed the activist group that a warning will be added to the Idaho driver's manual about the danger of leaving cats and dogs in parked cars.

KCATT Meeting Next Tuesday

The monthly Kootenai County Area Transportation Team (KCATT) meeting is next Tuesday, October 26 at 8 a.m. Here's the agenda.

If you see anything that jumps out at you, feel free to attend. KCATT meetings are held at the Idaho Transportation Department District One Headquarters, 600 W. Prairie Ave. in Coeur d'Alene.

TIGER II Grant Recipients Announced

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday announced that 42 capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states will share nearly $600 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER II program for major infrastructure projects ranging.

No local projects received funding however. The City of Spokane had submitted an application for funds for a study of the regional trail system. The closest project to receive funding through TIGER II is an Intermodal Transit Center in Moscow that received $1.5 million.

A complete list of capital grant recipients can be seen here.

The list of planning grant recipients is here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Idaho Scenic Motorcycle Rides

I post a lot of bicyclist information on this blog, so how about a little something for you other bikers. Yeah, the ones that ride motorcyles.

Here's some suggested motorcyle road trip routes through Idaho from MotorcycleRoads.com. It just sounded nice today. Why am I sitting in this office when the sun is shining outside and I could be doing a nice trip around Lake Coeur d'Alene?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

3rd Street Closed Tomorrow

On Wednesday, October 20th, from 5 a.m. until approximately 1 p.m., 3rd Street in Coeur d'Alene will be closed from Sherman Avenue to Lakeside Avenue so that Street Maintenance Department crews may locate a stormwater line.

Sagle Man Says He Can Solve Transportation and Engergy Issues

A Sagle, Idaho man says he has the technology to eliminate the entire nation's reliance on fossil fuels, while also eliminating the need to plow roads, spelling out warning signs in the actual roadway and capturing rainwater to purify it.

Sound crazy? Kind of but it also sounds like it might not be so far-fetched, especially because the man behind the idea is winning awards and drawing the attention of Japanese investors. This could shift the entire makeup of our transportation AND power systems, and it's all happening here in our corner of the country.

Here's the Spokesman-Review story on how Scott Brusaw and his wife want to replace the nation's roadways with solar panels.

Are there any problems you foresee if we were to cover our roadways with solar panels? Of course it would be a slow process and expensive but do you think it would work in the end?

Reminder: TIP Meeting Tomorrow Night

Here's your reminder that KMPO is hosting an open house tomorrow evening for to provide members of the public a chance to review and comment on our recently completed draft Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for 2011 - 2015.

The TIP is a funding program document that lists funded transportation improvements proposed by various jurisdictions in Kootenai County to be constructed within the next four years.

The open house is from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at Post Falls City Hall, 408 N. Spokane Street, Post Falls. There will not be a formal presentation at the meeting so you can come anytime between 4-6 p.m. and leave at your convenience.

Monday, October 18, 2010

SIA Has Body Scanners

I hadn't flown in a while, so when I showed up at Spokane International Airport last week and was asked to step into the body scanner I was pretty surprised. I asked the TSA agent how long they've had the scanners and was told only about a month. For those who haven't done it, they ask you to stand with your feet apart and your thumbs up to your temples with your fingers splayed out. So somewhere there is a picture of me looking like Bullwinkle the moose. I asked to see the image but they wouldn't let me.

Super Drunk; Does Not Include Super Powers

When I hear 'super drunk,' I think of a super hero who's imbibed too much, much like Spidey here. In Michigan though, 'super drunk' is an official term for a kind of drunk driver.

Starting on Oct. 31, there will be two kinds of drunken drivers in the state: standard and “super.”

Standard are those with blood alcohol content of 0.08 to 0.16 percent. The super drunk, a new category under state law, are first-time offenders who test at 0.17 or above. Along with the new designation comes super-high penalties and fines.

Here's the 'super' story, from Mlive.com.

Do you think fining and penalizing super drunk drivers more than a regular drunk driver will cut down on drunk driving incidents or is this just a way to bring in more money?

Studs Now Legal In Idaho

I can't believe it's that time of year again, but the Idaho Transportation Department sent out a news release reminding drivers that it's now okay to put studded tires on your vehicle.

The use of studded tires is legal from Oct. 1 through April 30.

While it is legal to use the tires, the transportation department advises against it unless extreme conditions warrant. Driving on studded tires may cause undue wear on bare roadways.

If you do use studs though, and travel to neighboring states, here are some dates to keep in mind:

* Montana: Oct. 1 - May 31
* Nevada: Oct. 1 - April 30
* Utah: Oct. 15 - March 31
* Oregon: Nov. 1 - March 31
* Washington: Nov. 1 - March 31
* Wyoming: Legal all year