July 12, 1996 in City

State Highway Speed Limits Get A Boost

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Drivers on busy state highways in Eastern Washington can get where they’re going a little quicker in about two weeks.

State highway officials are increasing speed limits on sections of U.S. Highways 395, 195 and 2 from 55 to 60 miles per hour.

That affects traffic in and out of Spokane toward Stevens Pass, Newport, the Tri-Cities and Pullman.

No speed increases will occur along two heavily traveled sections: U.S. 195 from Colfax to Pullman, and the length of U.S. 395 north from Spokane.

The big change from 55 to 70 mph is along U.S. 395 from Ritzville to Pasco.

The decisions come after officials examined road conditions, traffic volume and the speed drivers are already driving, said Al Gilson, state Transportation Department spokesman.

The legal limits start changing on July 22, when crews begin replacing highway speed signs.

Gilson predicted the work would take a week to finish.

The state raised the speed limits in March for most of Washington’s interstate highways. That change and the newest announcements stem from a congressional vote last winter to let states set their own highway speed limits.

To monitor the impact, the state must review traffic-safety records on those roads in two years, said Sgt. Chris Powell of the Washington State Patrol.

“The new limits are not an absolute. If things go to heck and if the speed limit seems a factor, the state can change them back,” Powell said.

Exact locations for changes in Eastern Washington are:

U.S. 2, from Deep Creek near Fairchild Air Force Base to Stevens Pass - 60 mph.

U.S. 2 from Day-Mt. Spokane Road to Newport - 60 mph.

U.S. 195 from Colfax to Hatch Road - 60 mph.

State Road 26 from Dusty to the Highway 395 junction - 65 mph.

Gilson said no changes are being considered along U.S. 395 north toward Chewelah for at least another year.

Residents from areas along that section of U.S. 395 have stated strong support for major improvements there, said Gilson.

The state is in the process of adding left-turn and passing lanes north of the city and into Stevens County.

The Colfax-Pullman stretch will likely never increase to 60 mph because of difficult road conditions, Gilson said.

Highway studies find too many curves and hills along that two-lane stretch to justify the increase.

The hike to 70 mph on the 71 miles of U.S. 395 from Ritzville to Pasco was an easy call, officials said.

Residents along the road strongly urged the change, especially since the state finished making the entire stretch divided, four-lane road.

Less traveled, secondary state highways will be reviewed this year for possible speed limit changes. Those would not take effect until 1997.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Speed limit changes

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