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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Holiday Closures

Us government workers are looking forward to a long weekend, so don't expect to get any official business done Monday. All government offices are closed Monday due to the Independence Day holiday. KMPO IS a government agency, so we will be closed. I have negotiated Friday off as well, so there will be a blogging hiatus of approximately four days, depending on the weather. If it's nice outside, I will be on the beach. If it's not, I will be inside blogging.

Work on Idaho Transportation Department construction projects will be suspended by early Friday afternoon in order to open up roadways to people travelling in and out of the area for the holiday.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wanted: One Personal Assistant Willing To Work For Nothing

Its only Tuesday but this week has already been a killer as far as work and transportation does. I didn't realize how preoccupied I'd been until I got in my car this morning and realized that I had left my keys in the ignition all night. In my driveway. Unlocked. And with my laptop in the back seat.

Anyone else ever done this? Did anyone take your car for a joy ride?

Rail Symposium Presentation Available

Last week, KMPO/SRTC sponsored a 'Rail Symposium,' as part of our 'Transportation Learning Series.' For the event, we brought in three national rail experts; Arthur Shoener, Avery Grimes, and John Ficker. They talked about the economics of the region and the past, future, and present of rail and how it fits in in our area.

If you couldn't make it to the symposium here is the power point presentation that was given.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lots Of Drivers To Hit Roads For Holidays

If you're hitting the road for the Independence Day holiday this weekend, you're going to be far from alone. AAA says holiday travelers can expect crowded roadways and higher gas and lodging prices this weekend.

The organization estimates over 34 million Americans nationwide will travel at least 50 miles from home this weekend, with about 90% of them getting there in personal vehicles. That's an increase of 19% from a year ago in western states.

Carlson says the national average price per gallon is $2.75.

KMPO Board Meeting This Week

The KMPO Board meeting is this Thursday, July 1. Here's a look at the agenda so you can see if anything on it interests you. If it does, as always, you're welcome to attend the meeting. It is at 1:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers of Post Falls City Hall.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Metropolitan Transportation Plan Faces Legal Challenge

All metropolitan planning organizations (that's what KMPO is) are required to produce what's called a Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), and update it every four years. We are in the process of doing an overhaul on ours right now.

The plan is a long-range plan for the region’s highway, road, rail, bicycling, and walking infrastructure growth. For the most part, it's a guiding document that most people in the public don't pay much attention to.

That's not the case for Puget Sound Regional Council though. Theire MTP, 'Transportation 2040' has been legally challenged by bike advocates and environmental groups on the grounds that the plan doesn't meet state environmental laws.

The complaint from detractors is that it is heavy on planning for personal vehicles and light on mentions of mass transit, walking, and bicycling.

Here's a link to the online publication Publicola with more information.

I believe this legal challenge is going to change the way we all produce public documents, and this will be taken into consideration as we continue through the process of updating the KMPO MTP this summer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Do I Have To Do To Get A Building Named After Me?

A Coeur d'Alene man was honored this week for his lifetime of improving highway management in Idaho. Ray Oliver was one of the first Worley Highway District commissioners and held the position for nearly two decades. He also worked with the state legislature to get more funds distributed to local highway entities.

So what did he get for his efforts? A gold watch? A plaque with his name on it? Nope, how about a building? This Coeur d'Alene Press story explains.

Take The Bus To Hoopfest & Leave Your Road Rage Behind

If you're heading to Spokane for Hoopfest this weekend, you may want to avoid driving in the downtown area. How to do that? Park at a satellite lot and take the bus.

Here are details from the STA website.

Digital License Plate- The Next Thing In Advertising?

I don't know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time actually concentrating on driving because I'm on stimulus overload. Drive up 95 and you'll see signs everywhere- signs advertising stores, services, hotels, etc. Now throw into the mix possible advertising on license plates, and I could have a serious distracted driving problem.

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow research into the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The device would look like a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. Here's the story.

What do you think? Is this a cool idea or kind of crazy?

Stimulus Blamed For Naked Roads (Why Does That Just Sound Wrong?)

Naked roads!! What? Where have Indiana's morals gone? Okay, I guess it's not that bad, but a nationwide shortage of road paint is leaving Indiana's roads bare of stripes and other pavement markings.

And it's all the fault of the federal stimulus funding, according to
this article in the Chicago Tribune.

So far, no word of the shortage affecting our area but if you see workers out with sidewalk chalk, you'll know why.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SRTC Rail Symposium- Everything You Need To Know About Freight and Rail

Sorry for the unannounced blogging hiatus yesterday. I was tied up all day with the Rail Symposium we hosted. No, it wasn't the model train show, as one participant suggested, but it was an interesting day, even if we weren't playing with toy trains like Thomas here.

For the symposium, we brought three national railroad experts to town; Art Shoener, John Ficker, and Avery Grimes. My sister-in-law said they sound like a 60s folk trio; 'Avery, Ficker, and Grimes- the Rail Boys.' And they were a fun bunch of guys, making what could be a somewhat dry subject pretty interesting.

It started with a breakfast for the Inland Pacific Hub Advisory Committee, as they are overseeing the study into what it would take to develop a multi-modal global gateway in our area to increase international commerce. Freight rail and international commerce go hand in hand after all.

At the breakfast, they gave an overview of what they would go into later that day in the Symposium. Ficker talked about on-time delivery and how only about 5% of containers that come into the U.S. on ships are inspected. Kind of scary huh? That's because realistically it would be impossible to go through every item in every container.

Grimes explained the difference in class 1,2 and 3 railroads and talked about actual 'Railroad Colleges' that more and more people are attending to get their foot in the door to get a railroad job.

Shoener talked about shipping and explained that Mexico has three main exports to the U.S.- appliances, automobiles, and alcohol (mostly beer). He also said that Washington has a unique opportunity to build a deep water port at Grays Harbor.

After the breakfast the Rail Boys toured some local industry, then reported for duty for the 1 p.m. Rail Symposium at the Convention Center. At that event, they talked more about how there will be a huge hiring boom in the next five years for railroads as baby boomers start to retire, how many areas on the east coast only allow trucks on freeways during overnight hours, and how most rail cars aren't even owned by the railroads, but by shipping and car rental companies.

They promised to get their power point presentation to us, so I will post it here as soon as I get it so you can immerse yourself in freight rail goodness.

Colorado Town Bans Bicycles

Thanks to blogger Holly for sending me this article about a Colorado town that has banned bicyclists on most of its streets, allegedly for safety purposes.

Black Hawk is a tiny historic town with narrow streets that were designed for horses and buggies. While they haven't had any actual deaths, Black Hawk officials say they're worried about the potential for accidents, thus the bicycle ban.

The funny thing about this article is that it was published in a UK periodical and is the first I've heard about this town. You'd think someone would have made a big fuss about it in the states.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ironman Closures Coming Wednesday

You may want to avoid driving through some parts of Coeur d'Alene starting on Wednesday and going through the weekend.

Wednesday afternoon street crews will begin to set in place the barricades and detour route for the closure of Sherman Avenue at 2nd Avenue and Independence Point for the annual Ironman Triathlon.

Southbound traffic wanting to get into the downtown area will be detoured onto Lakeside Avenue to 2nd, 3rd or 5th, etc., to reach Sherman Avenue. Resort traffic should use 1st Street.

Westbound traffic will be detoured southbound onto 2nd Street and Front Avenue. These vehicles will loop around onto 4th Street and exit the downtown on Lakeside or north on 4th Street. 2nd Street at Sherman will be closed to northbound traffic.

The Independence Point parking lot will be closed early Wednesday as they set up medical tents and Ironman stores. At the time of the closure, the signals at 2nd and Sherman will be put in the red flash mode and the signal at Lakeside and Independence Point will be shut off to keep traffic flowing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rail Symposium Coming Next Week

Don't forget, KMPO, along with our sister agency SRTC, are hosting a 'Rail Symposium' next month.

We're bringing three national rail and freight experts to Spokane on June 22. Avery Grimes, John Ficker, and Arthur Shoener have spent several decades each in the rail industry in a variety of capacities and will present on the continuing evolution of the railroad and its effect on the economics of the inland pacific region.

The International Trade Alliance, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Avista, and Inland Empire Distribution Systems are helping to bring this event to Spokane by sponsoring it. The symposium is free and open to everyone, so come down and learn something new. Here's a flyer for the event.

Sandpoint Project One Of Most Expensive In State History

I know Sandpoint isn't in Kootenai County, but it's regional and a lot of Kootenai County folks head up there in the summer to take advantage of the tourism opportunities so I'm going to use this story anway:

Congratulations Sandpoint, you've got one of the most expensive transportation projects in Idaho's history going on right in your backyard. That's right, The Sand Creek By-Way in Sandpoint is expected to cost $98 million, which is a whole lot by Idaho transportation standards.

KREM 2 News has the story.

Question Of The Day: How Are Speed Limits Set?

I've been a little short on regional blog material lately, so was digging around the Idaho Transportation Department website this morning and found something kind of interesting: ever wonder how speed limits are set?

Well someone must have because that's one of the questions on ITD's 'Frequently Asked Questions' page. Now that I asked, you're curious, aren't you? Well, the way speed limits are set actually involves a little math. And since I got a journalism degree and can't even explain math, let alone do it, here's a link to ITD's answer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thursday Is 'Dump The Pump' Day

Get up a little early tomorrow folks- just early enough to give yourself enough extra time to ride the bus instead of driving. Tomorrow is national 'Dump the Pump Day' where you're encouraged to use a public transit system instead of driving.

The day is dedicated to creating awareness about local public transit services and its advantages. Plus it doesn't hurt your wallet either.

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

CDA Sidewalks Getting Fixed- Again

Safco Construction says don't freak out yet about concrete coloring on sections of sidewalk that didn’t set properly during last summer’s construction of the Mid-Town area.

The weather at the time the stain was applied was cool and wet, causing the stain to not take. It has since peeled off, leaving patches of gray concrete where bright color should be.

Safco says they'll fix the problem along Fourth Street north of Roosevelt Avenue though, so don't get too excited about your tax dollars being misused. They're having the same problem this year though, with rain and cool weather, so it's not clear yet when the work can be performed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beck Road To Open Today

Widening and realignment of Beck Road at Seltice Way is complete and the road will reopen today after being closed for two months. The construction also moved the Union Pacific rail crossing.

Here are the details from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Monday, June 14, 2010

CDA Considering Bike Sharing Program

The City of Coeur d'Alene is considering implementing a bike sharing program. There are programs like this in cities all over the country. But what's unusual about this situation is that the idea originally came up not as a way to help people get where they need to go, but to demonstrate to people already riding bicycles where they can park them. This Coeur d'Alene Press story explains.

Oregon Vehicle Registrations Dropping

Here's something I found interesting- vehicle registrations are dropping in Oregon, and transportation officials think it's because more people are finding alternative ways to get where they'red going, to avoid paying the costs associated with owning a car. Nearly every county in the state saw a decrease in registrations last year. Here's the story from the Oregonian.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rail Symposium Coming Soon

When we say we deal with EVERY mode of transportation here at KMPO, we're not joking. That's why we, along with our sister agency SRTC, are hosting a Rail Symposium later this month.

We're bringing three national rail and freight experts to Spokane on June 22. Avery Grimes, John Ficker, and Arthur Shoener have spent several decades each in the rail industry in a variety of capacities and will present on the continuing evolution of the railroad and its effect on the economics of the inland pacific region.

Thanks to the International Trade Alliance, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Avista, and Inland Empire Distribution Systems for sponsoring this symposium. It is a free event and open to everyone.

Want more information? Here's a flyer for the event.

Hands Off That Cell Phone

You've known this day was coming and it's finally here. If you commute across the state line, just put your phone down and drive if you don't want a $124 ticket.

Starting today, talking or texting on a cell phone while driving and NOT using a hands-free device is a primary offense in Washington. That means a police officer can pull you over if they see you doing either, they don't have to wait to get you on some other driving infraction.

Here are the new rules from the Spokesman-Review.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More Increases For Citylink In May

May was another big month for Citylink ridership. Numbers were up on every route last month, and the C route through Hayden and Coeur d'Alene saw a pretty significant jump of aver 3,000 boardings!

Here are the numbers.

Weather Will Be Nice For A Weekend Ride

It's supposed to be 80 degrees this weekend. That means a lot of people are going to be getting outside to enjoy it. I recommend a nice bike ride. If you'd like to do so on a trail, how about the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes? Here are some frequently asked questions regarding where to get on the trail, what ammenities it offers, what communities it passes through, etc. from the website.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

CDA Council Approves Trails & Bikeways Plan

Congratulations to the City of Coeur d'Alene. The City Council last night approved the 2010 Trails and Bikeways Master Plan. That's quite an accomplishment for the folks working behind the scene to make this major undertaking a reality.

Here's a link to the plan.

Lowe V. ITD Court Date Set

A hearing date has been set in the wrongful-firing case of Former Idaho Transportation Department Director Pam Lowe. Lowe says she was fired for refusing to scale back a hefty contract with politically well-connected firms and that she was targeted for her gender. The state argues she was merely an “at-will” employee and could be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason.

Here's the latest on this case from the 'Eye on Boise' blog.

Free Train Rides

Want to see the Rathdrum Prairie from a different viewpoint? Try doing it from a train. And for free. The Union Pacific Railroad is offering free train rides on June 22 in an effort to prevent collisions at rail crossings.

Tickets for the rides are available starting today at the Idaho State Police office at 615 W. Wilbur Ave. in Coeur d’Alene.

Three trips are planned, with departures at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. The trip route is along tracks near Greensferry Road between Hayden and Prairie avenues, north of Post Falls.

Union Pacific is joining Idaho Operation Lifesaver in calling attention to the dangers of rail crossings. 286 people were killed nationwide in 2008 in collisions involving vehicles and trains while 453 deaths involved pedestrians and trains.

Monday, June 7, 2010

CDA De-Icer Facility To Receive Award

Congratulations to the City of Coeur d'Alene, which is receiving a City Achievement Award from the Association of Idaho Cities for its Brine De-Icer Facility. Winners for this competition are judged on how they improve the quality of life in their community, if they reduce the cost of resources or solve a community problem.

Here's more information on the awards and the Brine De-Icer Facilityfrom the Coeur d'Alene Today blog.

If you scroll down a little on that blog, you'll also find a couple good videos on making bicyclists and pedestrians more visible at night and staying alert for children on the street.

Zero Deaths On Idaho Highways Over Holidays

In the first time in 12 years, Memorial Day passed without a single death on Idaho highways.

The Idaho Transportation Department says there were no traffic fatalities over the holiday weekend reporting period, which is considered from 6 p.m. on Friday to 6 a.m. on Tuesday. That's compared with six traffic-related deaths last year.

This is only the fourth time in more than 25 years without Memorial Day highway fatalities. The other years were 1982, 1987 and 1997.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Have You Been Caught Sleeping On Public Transit?

If I can stay awake long enough, I find it hilarious to watch people nod off to sleep on the bus. Usually they wake up when their head drops violently against their chest, then look around guiltily to see if anyone notices they're drooling. But sometimes folks get pretty comfortable. I have about a 20 minute bus and there's one guy who sometimes gets so deep into sleep in that short time that he starts snoring.

Well, a big thank you to Joel for sending me a link to the POOPT website- standing for 'Passed out on public transportation'. Take a look and see if you see yourself. You can submit pictures too. I'm trying to catch the kid on my bus sleeping who always leaves a big smear mark on the window, but so far no luck.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

CDA Council Votes To Add Bike Lanes

After years of discussion, the City of Coeur d'Alene has finally decided to add bike lanes to 15th Street. City Council members last night voted 5-1 in favor of the lanes.

Parking will be removed along the one mile stretch from Sherman Avenue to I-90 and replaced with 5' bike lanes on each side of the road. Here's are the rest of the changes that will come with the addition of those bike lanes,from the Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle Blog.

Test Your Driving Know How

How long has it been since you took a driving test? Ten years? Fifteen years? It's been closer to 20 for me. Think you could do it again? Right now without looking at a driving manual or sitting in a car? Okay hotshot, let's see you do it.

Here's a test of 20 questions from MSN taken from real licensing tests across the country.

I scored 85, with most states requiring a score of at least 80 to pass. If I remember right, that's pretty close to what I got the first time around when I was 16. Take the test and let me know how you score.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CDA Gets Money For Street & Park Trees

The City of Coeur d’Alene was awarded $133,512 in federal stimulus grant funding to perform maintenance work to street and park trees. The funds come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Coeur d’Alene is one of only four communities in Kootenai and Bonner counties that qualified for and was awarded funds.

The purpose of the funds is to help communities improve the overall health and value of their public tree resources while increasing public safety. Nearly 300 trees will be removed or pruned.

To determine street tree work, Urban Forestry personnel did hazard assessments on 250trees reported by the street tree inventory to be in “poor” condition. Over 100 of those in the poorest condition are slated for removal. An additional fifty street trees will be pruned. Most of the 118 park trees included in the grant will be pruned to improve their safety and health.

June KMPO Meeting Cancelled

The June KMPO Board meeting, scheduled for this Thursday, June 3, has been cancelled. The next meeting is scheduled for July 1 at 1:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at Post Falls City Hall.

Here's a link to the KMPO website where all KMPO meetings and dates, times, etc. are posted.

Goodbye Appleway Bridge

The Appleway Bridge that provides access to Stateline, ID shuts down today until the fall of 2011 to be torn down and rebuilt. Just saying, so you'll find another route.

Who Needs A Stinkin' Stop Light?

The video below was sent to me with the title 'Intersection in India.' I'm not sure it really is India or what the story is behind it, but it's crazy. Watch the pedestrian in the lower right hand corner at about 12 seconds in, as he has not 1, but about 3 near misses.

What's Next? When Will Technology Actually Start Driving The Car?

I know there are a lot of you that drive across the border to Washington to work every day. And you've probably heard that a new law goes into effect June 10 that promotes any use of a wireless gadget to a primary offense, meaning if a police officer even sees you talking on the phone or texting, they can pull you over. They no longer have to witness you doing something else wrong before pulling you over.

And they're not joking. You can't even check your voicemail or texts while sitting at a stoplight or while stuck in traffic.

In a discussion with some bloggers on the Washington side of the line, one gentleman mentioned the new Ford 'SYNC' system that will actually read your text messages to you, along with doing about a hundred other things we used to not think necessary. Having been apparently living in a cave for the past two years (SYNC came out in 2008), I hadn't heard of it so looked it up. Here's a portion of what Wikipedia says about SYNC:

"Ford SYNC allows various portable devices (e.g., the iPod, Zune, and most other USB mass storage devices) and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to be operated with simple voice commands. SYNC can even receive text messages and read them aloud using a digitized female voice "Samantha". SYNC can interpret a hundred or so shorthand messages such as LOL for "laughing out loud" and will read swear words; it will not however, decipher obscene acronyms.

Obscene acronyms?? Not familiar with those. I must not be getting texts from the right people. While I try to figure out what an obscene acronym would be, here's a link to the official SYNC site, in case you want to invest in a Ford.