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Friday, January 29, 2010

I Bet The Sun Bouncing Off This Baby Would Blind Drivers

I lost my bike helmet in a little fire incident. But luckily the insurance company will pay for a new one. I can't have just any helmet though, so it being Friday and no sign of the boss in the office, I thought I'd look around for one on Ebay really quick before I started my other duties. Well, I found the holy grail of bike helmets for Hello Kitty lovers.

This beauty is covered in Swarovski crystals and can be purchased for only $345. The seller's description is almost as awesome as the actual helmet:

"Up for sale is this One of a Kind, Kitty Helmet, completely covered in Swarovski crystals. OMGosh, isn't it breathtaking?? Imagine how you'll be turning heads, stopping traffic or just being the complete diva. Make every moment an opportunity to shine! This is a helmet that is not for someone who doesn't want to be noticed. I've only done one other and I'm under contract not to divulge who I made it for. I can give you this much information, it is someone famous."

The Ebay posting has about 20 more pictures so I'm going to put a link to it in case you want to take a closer look or maybe purchase it for your favorite blogger since I doubt the insurance company will pay this much for a helmet.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Toyota Owners Asked To Wait To Bring Cars In

Do you own a Toyota that's been recalled? Local Toyota dealers are asking you NOT to bring your car in until you receive a letter from the company.

Problems have come to light recently concerning sticky gas pedals in some of Toyotas top selling models. So, if you don't get your letter right away, can you keep driving your car? This Coeur d'Alene Press story answers the question.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ID Drunk Drivers Could Face Stiffer Penalties

Drunk drivers in Idaho could soon face stiffer penalties for driving at less than twice the legal limit for intoxication. Boise Democratic Senator Les Bock is supporting a plan to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for an enhanced DUI from .20 to .15. The current legal limit is .08 BAC.

here's the story from the Idaho Reporter.

KMPO January Newsletter Available Now

As usual, I just barely got done with my January newsletter in time to send it out while it is still January. In case you're curious what we've been up to here at KMPO, here's a link to the newsletter.

And if you want to get signed up for my email distribution list so that the newsletter comes directly to your inbox, send me your email address and a quick note saying to add you to the email list.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Weight/Speed Restrictions On Some North Idaho Highways

The Idaho Transportation Department has put speed and weight restrictions on some state highways in north Idaho due to the recent freeze/thaw cycles. Some asphalt surfaces are showing signs of stress because of the freezing and thawing of the road base. Restrictions are in place for these state highways:

- Idaho 3, from Hells Gulch Road to Jct I-90

- Idaho 3 from Latah/Shoshone County line to Benewah/Shoshone County line

- Idaho 200 from Jct U.S. 95/Idaho 200 to the Montana State Line

- Idaho 57 from Priest River to Nordman

- U.S. 2 from Old Town to Sandpoint

Vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight of 10,000 lbs. or more will be restricted to 30 mph and 16,000 lbs. per axle, or legal axle weight, whichever is less. The restrictions are in place until further notice.

Traffic Study Presentation Scheduled For Wednesday

The consultant behind a recently-completed study of ways to ease traffic congestion in the Seltice Way-Mullan Avenue corridor will present the findings at Post Falls City Hall this Wednesday.

The presentation will included recommended preferred alternatives. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. Here are the details from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Kroc Center Facing Parking Problems

The Kroc Center in Coeur d'Alene is so popular that parking spaces are at a premium. The center's 352-space lot fills up most days, forcing overflow parking onto adjacent streets. But there are no firm plans to expand the parking lot.Here's the story from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

I've only been to the Kroc Center a couple times, and I arrived by bicycle each time. Even the bike rack was almost full though. Do you use the Kroc Center, and if so, do you have a hard time finding parking?

Savvy Animals Use Underpass Tunnels

When I heard that the Washington State Department of Transportation was going to install 'wildlife underpasses' under I-90 between Hyak and Keechelus Dam on Snoqualmie Pass, I wasn't convinced animals would use them to get from one side of the highway to the other. Call me skeptical, but how would they know to use the underpass versus crossing the road? Would the signs posted point them in the right direction?

So yesterday this story popped up: six underpasses in Wyoming are getting lots of users in the form of big game. Cameras installed in the tunnels show thousands of animals using them. Who would've thought it? I can't even convince my dog to stay off the couch, but apparently large animals know to use a tunnel versus the surface route.

Here's the story from the Billings Gazette.

Does it surprise you that this large a number of animals are using these underpasses? Did I just not give the animals enough credit?

Monday, January 25, 2010

CDOT Not Happy With Group That Adopts Road

The Colorado Department of Transportation is in a tight spot. The Nazi Party of Colorado wants to adopt a stretch of highway, and while the CDOT isn't interested in doing business with them, the law says they have to.

Here's the story from KDVR News.

What do you think; does anyone have the right to take part in programs like the adopt a road program? Or does it cause too many distractions?

Letter Writer Thanks Lakes Highway District

Here's a nice pat on the back for the Lakes Highway District contained in this letter to the editor of the Coeur d'Alene Press:

A few months back there were letters to the editor concerning the intersection of Prairie Avenue and U.S. 95. The problem was that vehicles were turning left from westbound Prairie Ave. into the Starbucks parking lot. This causes traffic problems and accidents.

When I had a near miss at this site with my grandchildren in my car, I knew it was time to take action. After a few days of research, it was found that a vehicle can cross over a double-double yellow line to enter or exit private property. These double-double yellow lines DO NOT represent a median strip as in other states.

This information was given to me by Major Wolfinger, Kootenai County Sheriff Department. He recommended contacting The Lakes Highway District. They recommended reading the minutes from the meeting on Dec. 21, 2009. These minutes said that there will be a temporary fix for this problem.

"Jersey Rails," portable traffic flow barriers, will be put in place within two weeks to try to solve the problem of this "accident prone" area. A permanent median is to be installed as soon as weather permits.

I would like to commend Lakes Highway District for its recognition of a severe problem in this area and hope that any reader who has had an accident, or a near miss, go to, and give it a message that you support its decision and please review the draft of the proposed revamping of the entire area. Thank you.

Coeur d'Alene

Has anyone else had major problems at Prairie and U.S. 95? I've been over there recently, but only at weird, off peak-traffic times so haven't noticed anything too crazy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two-Way Streets- The Way Of The Future?

Here's a topic that comes up from time to time in our area: converting one-way streets to two-way. It's a hot topic in neighboring Spokane Valley on the Sprague/Appleway Couplet and I hear citizens suggest it for other locations occasionally as well.

This article on the 'Governing' website says that moving from one to two-way streets is the way of the future, because the streets aren't just easier for drivers to navigate, but oftentimes the switch brings economic vitality with it.

What's your opinion? Are area one-way streets just a pain in the neck or do they serve a purpose (and do it effectively)?

For The Kids

I'm hard pressed for content today, so here's one for the kids: this is the Pedestrian Safety Fun Page off the Idaho Transportation Department website. So print it out, take it home for the kids (I didn't mean to imply you should print it on the work printer either), and use it to talk about pedestrian safety. And don't say the government never gives you an opportunity to teach while having fun :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ID Drivers To Get New Licenses

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is switching to a new driver’s license that officials say should reduce fake IDs, time spent at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and annual operating costs. Here's an article on the new licences from the Idaho Reporter.

The question is, if this ID is so great, can it also make you look good in your driver license photo? I had to wait 2 hours last time I went to the DMV so I was VERY irritated by the time I had my photo taken- and you can tell in the picture. I tried to scan it to prove how bad it is but it's too small and there's not enough resolution to do it justice. Anyone else have a particularly bad drivers license photo?

Warm Weather Brings Out Walkers- And Near Misses

With the weather so warm, I've noticed a lot of people out walking lately. Including after dark. So thanks to the Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian & Bicycle Blog for posting tips for walking after dark. Here's a link to them.

Some of these may seem pretty obvious but hello- common sense. I had a meltdown last night because I almost hit a pedestrian. I came around a blind corner and there was a guy in the middle of the street crossing mid-block. I didn't even see him until I was almost on him though because he was wearing all dark clothing. He yelled at me like I probably deserved but after I calmed down I wanted to go back and yell at him for 1.) crossing mid-block 2.) crossing just on the other side of a blind corner and 3.) wearing black clothes while walking at night. Of course, I resisted the urge.

Have you had any close calls?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ice Rink Improvements Could Include Trailhead

Lake City Development Corp. is trying to nail down how much public benefit could come from helping improve the Kootenai Youth Recreation Organization's proposed ice arena. I bring this up on a transportation blog because part of the improvements would include expansion of the parking lot and adding a trail head for the Centennial Trail.

KMPO was asked by the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation to look at this issue, and after putting together a map of area Centennial Trail trailheads, found that it could be very advantageous to place one at the ice rink. The nearest trailhead to the east is over a mile away, and to the west three miles away. That means there's not really a good place for people to access and depart the trail for almost four miles. It's kind of like a freeway you can't get on or off of between Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls. And because the average ride is about 1 1/2 miles, we believe more people would use that section of trail if there was easy access to it in between those points.

The ice rink has also talked about adding public skate times. If that were to happen, young people in neighboring areas could use the trail to get to the rink.

Here's an article on the situation from the Coeur d'Alene Press. Read it and let us know, would you use a trailhead if it was placed at the KYRO ice rink?

Maybe I'm A Pesimist But It Just Seems Too Early

It's January right? I ask because when I left work last night at 5:00 (so it was dark), I saw a woman in a convertible WITH THE TOP DOWN.

What do you think? Did she just curse us to a really bad rest of the winter?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Panabaker Joins KMPO Board

KMPO has a new Board member this year. Dick Panabaker will be representing the City of Hayden. The Coeur d'Alene Press ran this profile on him today.

Bike To Work Week Needs Your Help

Bike to Work Week is May 16-22 this year, and the Bike to Work Committee is already getting organized. The committee is having its first meeting February 2nd at noon at the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce and they need your help. If you are interested in serving on this committee or just helping out with events, please email Monty McCully by clicking here.

Highway 95 Project Planned For 2010

The Garwood-to-Sagle project on Highway 95 is in the plans for 2010, now it's up to the legislature to see if it happens. ITD's $26 million bonding proposal must receive legislative support to make the project a go. Here are the details from the 'Eye On Boise' blog.

Friday, January 15, 2010

ITD Comes Up With Budget

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has put together a $579 million budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins in July. 55% of the money included in it comes from the federal government.

Plus, they say they've saved a boatload of money on the GARVEE program due to construction costs being down, etc. etc. I'm too tired to sumarize anymore, you're going to have to read the Idaho Reporter article yourself.

'Stimulus II' Has Transportation Officials Running

State transportation officials are scrambling to prepare for “Stimulus II,” federal legislation also known as the 2010 Jobs Bill that could potentially bring another $182 million to Idaho for shovel-ready projects.

Why are they scrambling? Because 50% of the money will be required to be awarded in 90 days. Here's an article on Stimulus II' from the Spokesman-Review's 'Eye on Boise' blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

LaHood Lifting Restrictions On Transit Spending

I just realized I've been neglecting my campaign lately to get Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to visit our part of the country. Well here's a LaHood piece for you; he says he's rescinding Bush administration restrictions on federal transit spending so that a wider range of projects will be eligible for funds. You go Ray! We need a wider choice of transit options! Here's the article from the Las Vegas Sun.

Holiday Closures On Monday

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day so you're not going to be able to get a lot of government business done. While KMPO will be open, must other government agencies won't.

- Coeur d’Alene City Hall will be closed
- Post Falls City services will be closed
- Hayden City services will be closed

CDA Ped/Bike Committee Meeting Tonight

The Coeur d'Alene Ped/Bike Committee is hosting its monthly meeting tonight in the old council chambers at 5:30 pm. Topics discussed will be:

-Complete Streets
-Trails and Bikeways Master Plan
-Share the Road Campaign
-League of American Cyclists Instructors
-Ped/Bike Website - Blog/Facebook
-Bike Saftey Campaign
-Vulnerable Users Law

The General Public is invited so show up with your input.

Watch Out For Water And Elk On Roadway

If you drive in rural areas, you may encounter a new obstacle while driving; standing water. A flood advisory remains in effect across much of the Inland Northwest after rain left pools of water in fields and along low-lying roads. Here's my legal disclaimer: that picture isn't of an actual event in our area, it was taken off the internet for the purpose of humor.

I was out in the Stateline area this morning and there are places where water is starting to creep over the road, and more rain is expected this weekend. Another thing I saw in that area was a huge herd of elk standing on the railroad tracks trying to cross Trent. Semis and other cars were barreling by in both directions at 60 miles an hour and I was scared a train would come along and scare the elk into entering traffic. I called the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center, who reported it to the State Police, whom I saw headed that way just a few minutes later, but I don't know what happened after that. I tried to take a picture but was afraid that would also cause a traffic 'incident.'

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

KMPO Looking Into Feasibility Of A Regional Public Transportation Authority

The Coeur d'Alene Press today published the article below regarding KMPO's exploration of the possibility of forming a Regional Public Transportation Authority, or RPTA. The Press only publishes it's front page stories on its' website, so I couldn't provide a link but I did manage to get a copy of it.

An RPTA would essentially function like Spokane's Spokane Transit Authority. Read the article and give me your opinion, do you think North Idaho needs a RPTA?

Staff writer, Coeur d'Alene Press

POST FALLS — Kootenai County residents could vote in November on creating a local transit authority to address public transportation issues.

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, which consists of area cities, the county, highway districts and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, is in the early stages of considering whether to put a proposal on the ballot.

Staci Lehman, KMPO spokeswoman, said the advantage of forming a regional public transportation authority (RPTA) like Spokane has is that the government agency’s focus is solely on public transportation.

“It doesn’t get bogged down with other stuff,” Lehman said. “This focus allows for better coordination of services, closer monitoring of how federal grant money is spent and a unified effort to secure funding such as through federal and local sources.”

An RPTA also requires more accountability to the public, stakeholders and member jurisdictions, she said.

If the idea is favorable, KMPO will consider a resolution, likely in March, that would be sent to the voters this fall. A simple majority is needed for passage.

The KMPO board recently voted unanimously to create a subcommittee to look into the feasibility of forming an RPTA.

Since Kootenai County doesn’t have a transit authority, different government agencies are responsible for planning, funding and operations regarding public transportation.

“That can cause occasional issues with cooperation, conflicts of interest,” Lehman said.

A loose-knit collaboration between the agencies is how this area currently gets by without a transit authority, Lehman said.

The original recommendation to form a transit authority came from the 2005 Kootenai County Public Transportation Feasibility Study.

“Since then, several projects have come up that have illustrated how it would be much easier to work through one operational fund than several,” Lehman said, citing such examples as bus benches and distributing stimulus funding.

The transit authority would be governed by a board of local elected and appointed officials representing cities, the county, highway districts and the Tribe. It would be funded the same way Panhandle Area Council is now — through the Federal Transit Administration and local match.

The money that PAC gets now for public transportation would be shifted to the transit authority.

Lehman said PAC would still exist, but would focus on its other economic development areas rather than transportation.

Here's a Transportation-Related Joke I Heard

Q. Why don't penguins and ostriches fly?

A. Because they can't get through airport security.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pantless In Seattle

Those crazy Seattlites! They take their clothes off at the drop of a hat. Or the opening of a light rail line.

Here's one reason to get light rail in Spokane and to Coeur d'Alene; we could have a 'No Pants! Light Rail Ride' like they did in Seattle over the weekend. Here's the video and don't worry, I previewed it to make sure there's no gratuitous nudity that will make your eyes bleed.

Grenade Shuts Down CDA Street

Say you're cleaning a home where the owners have recently died and you find a grenade. What do you do with it? Call the police? Not if you're one Coeur d'Alene man who put just such a grenade in his car, then proceeded to drive it into town, coming to a stop at the post office on Lakeside and shutting the street down when he reported his find to police. Here's the story from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Monday, January 11, 2010

CDA Makes Own De-Icer

Did you know that the City of Coeur d'Alene makes it's own de-icer for area roads? I didn't either. Last year, the City completed construction of a brine de-icer solution facility that will pay for itself in just a couple years. Pretty cool huh? Good job CDA for being progressive. And even better news- CDA plans to share it with other area jurisdictions to spread the love- and savings- a little. Here's everything you ever wanted to know about a de-icer solution facility from the City of Coeur d'Alene Today blog.

ITD Defends Firing of Director

The state of Idaho filed a response over the weekend to former Idaho Transportation Department director Pam Lowe's wrongful termination suit. The response basically says that ITD can fire whomever they want- whenever they want. Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review.

Rising Gas Prices Slow Improvement Of Economy

I noticed on my way to work this morning that gas prices are on the rise again. Then I saw this article from the Washington Post when I got here. It talks about how gas prices are headed back toward $3 per gallon, which is up 67% from this time last year. The article also says demand is down- so why the rise in prices? Take a look at the article then let me know if you've been feeling the pinch from increased gas prices.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

ITD Trims Funds Request

KOZE Radio out of Lewiston is reporting that the Idaho Transportation Department plans to ask lawmakers for just $26 million in additional bonding authority for fiscal year 2011- because lower construction prices mean the agency doesn’t need as much money as originally expected to finish projects.

Here's the story.

These Signs Aren't So You Can Keep Score

Idaho's first wildlife/vehicle collision "tally signs" will go up this week. The signs will be posted in the Boise area, but are expected to go up in other parts of the state in subsequent winters.

The tally signs - featuring the message "Give Deer & Elk a Brake" - will be updated regularly to inform the public about the number of known vehicle-wildlife collisions to date each year on that stretch of roadway. The signs are the result of a collaborative effort by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), the City of Boise, Ada and Boise Counties, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and members of the public to improve the safety of motorists and wildlife alike.

ITD officials say, on average it costs the public about $8,000 for each deer/vehicle collision and $18,500 for each elk/vehicle collision! Those costs include insurance claims, deductibles, medical expenses, disability leave, lost wildlife resources and the lost man power and equipment resources caused by removal of the dead deer and elk by State of Idaho personnel.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Just To Give You A Mid-Week Laugh

Turns Out Pedestrian Was Hit By Pavement, Not Car

I blogged about a story earlier this week that concerned me because the man involved claimed he had been hit by a car while walking, knocked unconcious, and whomever had hit him drug him out of the roadway and into an alley where he couldn't be seen.

Well, as these things often do, this turned out to not exactly be the case. In fact, the real story is that the 'victim' was so drunk he didn't remember getting his injuries when he tried to climb a parking garage, fell off and broke a leg and both ankles. I hate it when that happens.

Here's the story from KXLY. And it's allegedly the real story this time.

No Snow Means More Money

The recession may be hard on area transportation agencies, but the lack of snow is helping financial matters. The City of Coeur d'Alene is saving money on overtime, materials, and fuel involved with plowing. Here's what crews are doing instead, from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Citylink Numbers Just Keep Rising

Citylinks ridership numbers for December were up significantly from the previous December. Here's a look at the numbers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tribe Asks For Money To Improve Trailhead

The Coeur d'Alene tribe wants to fix up a trailhead for the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Plummer, and they're hoping to get a grant to do it.

The Tribe is applying for $19,500 from the state Department of Parks and Recreation to pay for the installation of picnic tables with protective covers at the start of the 73-mile trail.

Coeur d'Alene Tribe spokesman Marc Stewart says the plan is expected to enhance the trail and result in more use of the Plummer Trailhead Park area.

ITD To Hold Special Meeting

I don't have the inside scoop on why, but a news release from the Idaho Transportation Board says it will hold a special meeting tomorrow, Jan. 6, at 11:30 a.m. in Boise. Here's the agenda:

Special Meeting of the Idaho Transportation Board
January 6, 2010
11:30 a.m.

Idaho Transportation Department
Room 212
3311 West State Street
Boise, Idaho

1. GARVEE Program revised FY11 funding authorization request
2. Old/New Business

DUI Arrests Start Strong in 2010

The year started off busy for North Idaho law enforcement. 40 allegedly impaired drivers were picked up over the New Year's weekend in emphasis patrolled by putting extra deputies and officers at various locations around Kootenai County.

Here's the story from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Would You Prefer A Tax Based On How Much You Drive?

Don't like paying a gas tax? Would you prefer a tax based on the number of miles you drive per year?

That's what the Texas Transportation Commission is considering, and the idea has come up around here in recent years too. The tax would be a way to fund transportation projects in a time when a lot of funding options are going away.

Here's more on the proposed Texas tax. What's your opinion on a tax based on how much you drive each year? Good idea or bad and why?

Public Meeting For Government Way Project

It's January- and that means construction season isn't far behind. And the City of Coeur d'Alene is eager to get started on their projects apparently. They're inviting you to a public information meeting regarding a new project on Government Way between Dalton and Hanley avenues.

The meeting is next Tuesday, January 12th, from 4-7 p.m. at the Coeur d'Alene Library Community Room, 702 E. Front Avenue. The City is trying to get word out about their reconstruction of a 1/2 mile portion of Government Way between Dalton and Hanley. The project will include widening Government Way to five lanes, adding curb/gutter, bike lanes, and grassy swales, as well as completing the paving of Sunup Street.

Monday, January 4, 2010

KMPO Board Meeting This Thursday

The first KMPO Board meeting of the year is this Thursday, Jan. 7. Here's a look at the agenda. If you see anything on there that interests you, feel free to attend. All meetings are open to the public. It's at 1:30 p.m. in Post Falls City Council Chambers at 408 N. Spokane Street.

Get Outside And Experience The Trail In The Winter

With the weather resembling spring more than winter, maybe you should get out for some fresh air. And if you've never experienced the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, now is the time to do it because no one else is out there and you'll have it all to yourself.

Estar Holmes, who started the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Facebook page says the ground on the trail is mostly bare except for snow on the shady spots. People are ice fishing near Chatcolet Bridge, eagles are feasting on the ice, and restrooms are open. In other words, it's a winter wonderland, minus the harsh winter conditions. Estar has posted some pictures on the page, so check them out here.

Suspect May Have Tried To Cover Up Hit & Run Incident

This story from the Coeur d'Alene Press scares the heck out of me. It involves a pedestrian injured in a hit and run accident on New Year's Day. What's scary about it though is not that another pedestrian got hit (that seems to be happening a lot lately), but that the suspicion is that whomever hit the victim actually got out of the car and dragged him off the road to a place where he couldn't be seen!

Anyone ever heard of this happening before?