by Kristina Crawley and Cara Gardner

Bridging the Valley -- SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. -- Plans for raising railroad crossings at intersections between Spokane and Athol, Idaho, are underway at the Spokane Regional Transportation Council. The goal of the Bridging the Valley project is to separate vehicle traffic from train traffic along the 42-mile corridor. Project administrators say removing the at-grade crossings along this area will reduce the risk of train-vehicle collisions, increase traffic flow and cut down on noise levels, since there will be no need for train whistles at raised crossings. Each crossing will take 12-18 months to build, according to Glenn Miles, the transportation manager for SRTC.

Open Houses were held in both Spokane and Coeur d'Alene on May 26 and 27, where citizens were able to voice their comments on the project. Many were concerned about how long it would take to complete. "It's about an eight-year project, so it's not all going to happen overnight," Miles says. Currently the project is still going through the design and engineering process. Plans are to begin construction by 2007.

For more information, visit the project Web site at, or call the hot line at (208) 765-6799 or (877) BTV-1200.

A Bloodletting Event -- SPOKANE -- The summer months mean vacations, suntans and barbecues to most folks, but for the Inland Northwest Blood Center, they also mean blood shortages.

"Nationwide, as people are out in their communities on lakes boating, riding motorcycles and taking trips, there is an increased chance of accidents," says Bob Purdy, community services director for INBC. "People aren't thinking about donating blood during the summer. Well, we'd like to keep that in people's minds."

The INBC is hosting a citywide blood drive from Wednesday, June 30, to Friday, July 2, to boost stocks for the Fourth of July weekend.

"We're gonna have a M*A*S*H theme," says Purdy. "We'll be playing the videos to make it fun for people. Plus we have ice cream, and we have Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and everyone who comes in gets a T-shirt."

The INBC is the sole provider of blood for more than 30 hospitals and medical centers in the region.

Purdy says it's important to donate throughout the year. "About 60 percent of [the population is] eligible to donate, but only about three to four percent of those do so. There's just a small percentage keeping us safe," he says.

The INBC blood drive will take place at two locations: 210 W. Cataldo Avenue, three blocks east of the Spokane Arena; and 1341 Northwood Center Ct., Coeur d'Alene, next to the Outback Steakhouse, from June 30-July 2 from 7 am-6 pm.

Breaking Ground -- SPOKANE -- Planning for Spokane's updated convention center and exhibition hall hasn't been without disputes, financial quandaries, frequent public meetings, board meetings and design meetings, among others. But next Thursday, July 1, it'll all have been worth it; the time has finally come for the Public Facilities District (PFD) to break ground on Spokane's $77 million convention center project. A ceremony will be held at the site of the future exhibition hall's entrance at 10 am.

"It's amazing to be able to do what the voters said we could do over two years ago," says Kevin Twohig, executive director of the PFD.

The exhibition hall will be a 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building, complete with 425 parking spaces and room for 525 booths.

The construction on the exhibit hall is slated to end in August 2006; then the convention center upgrades will begin and take another nine months. Of all the challenges the PFD has faced, Twohig says the convention center concept has become a reality because of "great board members. They're very focused on advancing the district as a facility owner and operator." He notes that even those who have opposed certain aspects of the project have supported the overall concept when it counted.

"Any time a public agency is out spending $77 million, there will be criticism because everyone has different opinions," says Twohig, adding with a laugh, "just look at me; I had brown hair when I started this project."

The groundbreaking ceremony is Thursday, July 1, at 10 am, just west of Azteca. To view models and plans for the finished structure, visit

Publication date: 06/24/04

Moonlit Monster Cruises @ The Coeur d'Alene Resort

Through Oct. 31
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