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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.
Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Kootenai County, Idaho. Federal law requires urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people to have an MPO. KMPO was formed in 2003, to provide coordinated transportation planning within Kootenai county for the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and the Coeur d'Alene tribe.

KMPO's Board of Directors oversees KMPO for Kootenai County, ID. KMPO's Executive Director and Staff are responsible for day-to-day operational and administrative needs.