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Friday, February 26, 2010

Texting Law Could Be Hard To Enforce

Texting while driving is bad right? Of course it is. And we're all against it right? Of course we are. But even if a law is passed banning texting while driving in Idaho, how is it going to be enforced? That's the question posed by this article on the 'Idaho Freedom Foundation' website.

It points out that unless a police officer actually sees you texting, which is tough to do from the vantage point of the low cars that officers usually drive, they can't prove that's what you were doing. So you could say that adjusting the radio station is what caused you to swerve. Or you could be honest I guess, but how many people are going to do that when there's a big ticket on the line?

So what's your opinion?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vehicle emissions testing bill dies

Emissions testing was the subject of the day for the House Environment Committee. And it sounds like it was somewhat of a touchy subject. Here's the story.

Safe Routes To School Meeting Today

If you're not busy this afternoon, there's a Safe Routes to School meeting at 4 pm. The goal of SR2S is to identify and provide safe routes for children to walk or bike to school in order to encourage more physical activity.

All parents, teachers and concerned citizens are encourage to attend. Here's more information from the Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle blog.

Jobs Bill Update

There's a lot of confusion around the Jobs Bill. A lot of people think it already passed and want to know when money will start rolling in for construction projects. Well, we're not quite there yet. The Senate yesterday passed a $15 billion version of the bill, which is significantly smaller that the $154 billion Jobs Bill the House of Representatives passed late last year. As a result of the differences between the two bills, the $15 billion Senate version will now go back to the House for re-consideration.

House members could choose to vote on the Senate bill without any changes and send the $15 billion version to the president for a signature, or they could establish a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the bills.

A decision on how to proceed is likely to be announced late this week or early next week. The extention of the SAFETEA-LU transportation act expires at the end of February, and both versions of the Jobs Bills will extend it.

Besides the amount of money allocated to them, the big differences between the two versions of the bill are(provided by the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors):

1) Duration - the House version of the SAFETEA-LU extension runs through the end of September (Fiscal year); the Senate version runs through December, the calendar year.

2) Rescission - the Senate version restores the $8.7 billion rescinded from the states last fall. The House version does not.

3) State/Local Match - the House version waives the state/local match requirements for highway funds through the extension (September); however, the Senate bill does not.

4) Earmarked programs - The Senate version distributes 2010 funds through the formula programs, and adds the amount of earmarks awarded in 2009 to the states through the standard formula programs. Meanwhile, the House version instructs USDOT to distribute funds for the Projects of National and Regional Significance and corridors programs using the program criteria, and sends the remaining earmarked funds out to the states for use in the standard formula programs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympics Adding Traffic- And Incidents- To Western WA Roads

Here's an interesting item from the Washington State Department of Transportation blog. Apparently they have put more incident response crews on the roads on the west side of Washington State to keep things moving with an increase in traffic headed up to Vancouver and the Olympics. And they're seeing an increase in 'incidents,' specifically abandoned cars and disabled vehicles. Here are the numbers.

Some Cities Are Getting Sneaky With The Red Light Cameras

I hear from a lot of people who oppose the 'Photo Red' cameras in Spokane that take pictures of people who run red lights, then send the drivers expensive tickets. Some people accuse the City of using the cameras not to promote safety, but to drum up revenue.

Well, this article from CNET News is going to get those folks going. It talks about a sneaky trick that some cities (there are even some cities named) are employing to catch more drivers running red lights. Not Spokane, of course.

Harwood Drops Road-Kill Bill

Okay, I'll stop harping on Dick Harwood's roadkill bill now, since the representative from St. Maries withdrew it yesterday. He says he decided to drop the bill because he heard proposals to change it that would reverse everything he was trying to do.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Street Sweeping Starts Soon

Spring clean-up of Coeur d'Alene streets is starting early this year. Due to the lack of snow, street sweeping will be taking place in the upcoming weeks. With the street sweeping vehicles coming around, here is some information you'll want to know about moving your car, etc. from the 'City of Coeur d'Alene Today' blog.

Fish & Game Opposes Roadkill Bill

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has voted to oppose legislation from Representative Dick Harwood of Maries to allow Idaho residents with hunting or trapping licenses to salvage road-killed carcassesm which is now illegal. Road-killed animals are considered state property in Idaho.

A Fish and Game spokesman says the agency's concern is with the potential enforcement problems. For instance, someone could poach an animal and claim that they had found it as roadkill.

Harwood proposed the bill after a constituent said a valuable bobcat pelt went to waste after the animal was hit by a car near his home, and the state should’ve let him salvage it. Harwood’s bill is still pending in the House Resources Committee.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Editorial Pokes Fun At Roadkill Proposal

For a little light, amusing reading, an editorial in the Twin Falls 'Times News' titled 'Don't Tread On My Road Kill!' pokes fun at Rep. Dick Harwood's proposal to let people salvage roadkill. Here's the link.

Street Trees Available To Some Subdivision Residents

The City of Coeur d'Alene has street trees available for six new subdivisions. The trees are available for planting within the rights-of-way of Sunshine Meadows, The Landings at Waterford, Ramsey Meadows, Copper Ridge, Jae's Place, and Echo Glenn..

Funding for the trees comes from a street tree fee collected on residential building permits. The street tree fees can be refunded to builders or new homeowners who plant a street tree upon completion of a new home. Six months after the completion of a home, unclaimed funds are forfeited to the city. The city is now using these funds to purchase and plant trees in the same neighborhoods where the fees originated. The only qualification is a willingness to make sure the trees are watered and protected from string trimmers and mowers.

The trees available for spring planting are honeylocust, white ash, hackberry, and baldcypress. They will be planted by tree planting crews in May. If you live in one of those subdivisions and would be open to taking care of a tree send an email to Karen H. at the City of Coeur d'Alene. She will send you back a form to fill out.

Widening Project Planned For Hayden Ave.

The city of Hayden is proposing a street-widening project for a short stretch of Hayden Avenue between U.S. 95 and Government Way. City staff wants to know what you think of the idea first though, with a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening. Here are more details on both the project and the public meeting.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I think I Saw This In The Movie Jumanji

I've seen some weird stuff when driving down the road before, but never a zebra. An Atlanta highway turned into a circus yesterday when an escaped zebra galloped along a busy section of interstate with police in hot pursuit.

The animal was exercising outside a downtown arena when something spooked him, said a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus spokeswoman. The zebra broke away from his trainers and wriggled through a fence, leading his trainers and police on a 40-minute chase through downtown to the interstate highway that cuts through the center of the city. Police cruisers blocked off all southbound lanes of Interstate 75and were able to herd the zebra over to the right shoulder and off an entrance ramp, where they nabbed him. Here's some video of after he was caught.

Some Vacation Pictures I'm Trying To Pass Off As Work-Related

So it's Friday. You deserve a change of pace and my accountant says that if I want to write off any of my recent vacation I have to show that at least a small portion of it was work-related. So bear with me while I treat you to some transportation-related pictures from Hawaii. And feel free to ask questions, that makes it really seem work-related in case the IRS comes calling later.

This is SRTC Transportation Planner Bonnie on a scooter that the resort security officers use. How cool is that thing? We've asked about the possibility of getting a company car before here at SRC, but I think we should push for one of these instead.

If we can't get that scooter, maybe the boss man will agree to this little number. These were little mopeds that you could rent. Before embarking on our trip, we had discussed that we wanted to rent mopeds for at least one day. Once we got to Maui though, it became obvious that Maui traffic is too dangerous for bike or moped riding in most areas. The few mopeds we did see were operating in the bike lane and the even fewer bicyclists we noticed were weaving in and out of traffic.

That yellow writing on the car door says 'Abandoned vehicle' but who would abandon this beauty? It's a perfect island car. It was weird, while driving in the more rural areas, we saw abandoned cars all over. All I can figure is, being an island, maybe Maui doesn't have wrecking yards so there's nothing to do with old cars you can no longer resell? I haven't done the research on that though, and will have to look into it.

This was an unusual traffic sign that we saw on the famous road to Hana. Not state-sanctioned, I'm sure. So great, I was thinking; in Washington and Idaho you have to watch for deer and elk crossing the road. In Hawaii it's papayas! I don't even think I'd recognize a papaya if it crossed in front of me. I'd smoosh it before I'd realize what I'd just hit.

And finally, this is the not-so-famous Pilani Highway, but it should be much more famous than the Hana Highway. Most people make the famed trip to Hana, then turn around and come back the way they came. Not our group of stubborn, independent, tourists who all work in transportation and wanted to see how bad of a road it could really be. So, we decided we would take the long way, and it was really bad. And despite Pilani being a state highway, it was not only long but treacherous as well. The road was dirt in most places, only about a car-width wide and had tons of blind corners where you could easily fall off the cliff into the ocean if you were in the outside 'lane.' Way worse than the Hana Highway. Oh yeah, and the rental company had asked us not to take our rental car there, but we viewed that more as a suggestion than a mandate.

So any questions? I also have a picture of a submarine but since the majority of people don't travel by sub figured it probably wasn't appropriate for this post.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

US 95 Utility Work To Start Monday

Work to relocate utility lines in the right of way along U.S. 95 north of Hayden starts Monday, and could cause some slow downs in the area. The work is required as part of the U.S. 95, Wyoming to Idaho 53 widening project.

Crews will work daylight hours Mondays through Fridays. Work will continue until highway construction begins in mid-April. Initially, work will be focused on the Lancaster Road intersection and then move north to Boekel Road. Minor traffic impacts may occur on Lancaster. Few, if any, impacts are expected on U.S. 95.

Avista, Kootenai Electric and Verizon, will move utility poles, overhead lines and in-ground conduits. Some tree removal and vegetation clearing will also take place in the corridor. This $6 million highway project will widen approximately two miles of U.S. 95 to four lanes, closing the gap between existing four-lane sections of the highway.

School Districts Use Bus Ads To Raise Money

School districts are just as desperate as everyone else lately to plug budget holes. And in their desperation, some are turning to an untapped resource to raise money; selling advertising on the sides of school buses.

Advertisements have popped up on buses in Arizona and Massachusetts and are set to appear in Michigan and Colorado soon. Here's a USA Today article on this new money maker.

What's your opinion on this? Does it give the impression that our children are 'for sale' or bombard them with even more advertising than they already deal with on a daily basis, or is it okay as long as the ads don't promote alcohol, cigarettes, prescription drugs or anything in the least bit sexual?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Transportation Task Force Meets Tomorrow

Gov. Butch Otter's Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding meets again tomorrow. On the agenda- hearing from the chairman of a new seven-member Public Transportation Subcommittee that will consider Idaho’s long-term public transportation needs and funding options.

Here's more on the meeting from the Idaho Statesman.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Transportation Committee Approves Mountain Biking License Plate

I'm a little late on this one, but the House Transportation Committee late last week approved Idaho's proposed new special mountain biking license plate. Sales of the plate will help raise funds to maintain and expand public trails open to mountain biking around the state.

According to the state Department of Parks and Recreation, Idaho has more trails than any other state in the lower 48 states. While President, George W. Bush went mountain biking in Idaho with then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne during his 2005 visit to the state.

The license plate bill now moves on to the full House.

Monday, February 15, 2010

St. Maries Rep Pushes Roadkill Legislation

Representative Dick Harwood of St. Maries today proposed legislation to allow people with hunting or trapping licenses to salvage roadkill. Harwood says his proposal stems from a letter he received from a constituent who was threatened with arrest when he tried to pick up a bobcat on the road.

Here's why 'harvesting' roadkill is illegal,
and why some people are worried this kind of legislation could lead to drivers intentionally hitting animals.

Early Warning- Appleway Bridge To Close In May

Spokane County wants to get the word out about the pending closure of the Applway Bridge over the Spokane River just north of the State Line/I90 interchange. The bridge is the primary access to State Line Village, Otis Orchards, and west Post Falls.

The bridge is structurally deficient and needs to be replaced. The project to replace the bridge will advertise for construction bids this month with bid opening scheduled in March. The bridge is expected to be closed to traffic in May for the two years it will take to build a new bridge.

Access to the Centennial Trail will also be affected by the project. Detour information will be sent out when routes are finalized and a firm date for closure is known.

If you have any questions about this project, you can contact Spokane County Traffic Engineer Barry Greene by clicking here.

EWU Students Could Get Paid For Wearing Seatbelts

For those of you who attend Eastern Washington University, or have children who do, you could be rewarded with money this month- just for wearing your seatbelt on campus!

The EWU Police Department and the Spokane County Target Zero Task Force (formerly the Spokane County Traffic Safety Commission) are treaming up for the “Click It AND Ticket Project” in February. The campaign is designed to increase seatbelt usage and raise awareness of the importance of seatbelts among Eastern students. The program is supported by a grant from State Farm Insurance.

EWU police officers will be stationed in the parking lots around campus and “ticketing” drivers wearing seatbelts. The mock tickets can be entered into a drawing to win a $124 pre-paid debit card.

Order Your 2010 Trail Of The Coeur d'Alenes Guidebook Now

It already feels like spring outside, and once this rain quits, you may want to get out and enjoy the outdoors again. And what better way to do it than on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes? And even better, the 2010 Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Guidebook is at the printer and will be ready soon. The book has many new amenities and businesses represented this year. This is the third year the guide will be distributed.

If you're interested in checking it out, you can order the guidebook by clicking here.

We're Back! And On A Holiday

Yes, it's a holiday. No, KMPO isn't closed. While pretty much every other government entity will be taking the day off today, we're still in our cubicles, slaving away. So if you need to do business with the City of Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, Hayden, Kootenai County, ITD or anyone else government-affiliated, you have to wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nothing to see here folks, move along please...

Gotta love those CYA contracts that allow security guards to just stand by and watch things unfold even when a 15-year-old girl getting her head stomped in right at their feet. Check it out here. At least one guard had the decency to watch and ensure the entire beating and mugging went off without a hitch... the other two had to turn away. They must not have checked their conscience at the door when they signed on for their shift. This video made national news and must be doing wonders for transit agencies in Seattle...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Could Jobs Bill Mean More Construction For Kootenai County?

John Speare from the 'Cycling Spokane' blog has been kind enough to let me 'guest blog' on occasion, when I think there is something going on that would interest the average bicyclist or pedestrian. Well, I've been getting a lot of questions about the proposed 'jobs bill' and what it will mean for our area, both Kootenai and Spokane counties. Will we get transportation money from it? What kind of projects will it fund? Are local projects 'shovel ready' and eligible for these funds? There are a lot of questions floating around but few answers.

So, I thought I'd tackle it on John's blog. Here's a link to the few answers I have.

Blogging Hiatus 2010

You probably won't be seeing any new blog posts until at least early next week. I am headed off for vacation (hopefully not like the one in the picture) with a couple other KMPO staffers and former staffers and Jeff Selle is headed to Seattle for a 'Smart Growth' conference that a lot of other local agencies will be at as well. Jeff should be back in the saddle by Monday or Tuesday of next week and blogging away, but he's somewhat of a wild card so without me here to nag him, it's hard to say.

In the meantime, scroll down through past threads and enjoy some of our 'best of' posts.- Staci

Citylink Numbers Skyrocket

Holy Cow! Click on the chart above to enlarge it, then take a look at that purple column indicating Citylink ridership for January 2010. Now look at the Green column, which indicates 2009 numbers. That's right, there's a difference of 11,321! That's a big increase in just a year's time. You go Citylink!
Here's are other Citylink ridership numbers for 2009 and early 2010.

Fog Slowing Things Down

Take it easy out there, because it's foggy, particularly in the outlying areas. I was driving along near the Stateline area and it was clear, then two seconds later I was enveloped in a thick fog. This happened several times, so slow down as you may lose visibility within seconds.

Legislation Would Require Written Driving Test To Be Taken In English

I couldn't find an active link to the article below from the Associated Press so I'm pasting it in so you can read it. Read it and let me know if this proposed legislation disturbs your or gives you a slight feeling of unease, as it did with me.

The Idaho Senate is considering a measure that would restrict the state's driver's license test to a written test in English only.

The test is currently available in eight languages. The measure was authored by Hayden Lake Republican Sen. Mike Jorgenson, a promoter of efforts to punish employers for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. His bill, among other things, would require employers use the federal "E-Verify" system to document workers' eligibility.

While that provision is being fought by Idaho's construction and dairy industries, it's the "English-only" restriction Jorgenson added this year that has refugee advocates concerned.

Jorgenson conceded he hadn't previously considered his measure's impact on legal immigrants, political refugees or even foreign students on educational exchanges. He has since said he won't insist on the English-only provision, if other lawmakers object.

Idaho now offers written tests in Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Spanish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Farsi. At least 10 states now offer English-only drivers license tests: Utah, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Arizona, South Dakota, Wyoming, Maine, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona.

States like Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming allow interpreters. But Idaho's measure, should it pass, would forbid such assistance. (AP)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

City Looking For Plans For McEuen Field

The City of Coeur d'Alene wants you to know that the removal of tennis courts at McEuen Field isn't the first steps toward constructing a parking garage in the park. The tennis courts came out recently due to safety issues, and rumors spread that it was in preparation to build a parking structure. The City says that's incorrect though, and will be asking the public what they'd like to see in the park as a replacement. Here's an article from the Coeur d'Alene Press on the issue.

What would you like to see done with McEuen Field?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bike To Work Committee Needs You

Your help is needed to promote bicycling in Kootenai County. The Bike to Work Committee is having its first meeting tomorrow, February 2nd, at noon at the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce. Volunteers are needed, so if you are interested in serving on this committee or just helping out with events please either show up or email Monty McCully by clicking here. Your help is appreciated.

ID To Use RV Registration Funds To Keep Some Parks Open

Idaho’s state parks are taking a beating; the Parks Department took a 17% cut in general funds in fiscal year 2009, and a 56% cut with the fy 2010 holdbacks. Parks officials agree they have to find a way to be self-sufficient and have come up with a plan to take $2 million a year from RV registration funds that would have gone to grants for capital projects to serve RV users.

Here's a link to the 'Eye On Boise' blog where you can find the details. The plan seems to be the lesser of two evils, which would be shutting down some parks, but do you think this a satisfactory compromise?