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Washington Voices

Retaining Wall Buckling From Years Of Car Crashes

Thu., Oct. 3, 1996

‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Robert Frost wrote.

On the North Side, that something is Dodges, Toyotas and Chevys.

For more than 20 years, speeders have mowed into, bounced off of, and skidded along the guard rail along the bluff at Crestline and Illinois. Now, the retaining wall that keeps the ledge from crumbling away is finally buckling.

“It’s in bad shape,” said Larry Neil, a city operations engineer.

The part drivers see doesn’t look too bad - you have to peek over the ledge. “If you look at it, it’s fairly extensive damage along there,” Neil said.

The long stretch of galvanized steel warps, crinkles and at one point plain gives way. That section has bent about three feet out from its former straight run, causing the earth to slope downward.

When city employees first noticed the damage, they thought it had just occurred. “We thought it had a water leak or sewer leak that caused it to go quickly,” Neil said.

But after questioning neighbors, city staff found that years of Pinto pummeling was the real culprit.

“I see a lot of crazy drivers around here,” said Sue Trieschmann, who works at a nearby business. “There are really close calls … we get a lot of screeching tires and horns honking.”

The guard rail itself was fixed when damaged badly, so all looked well. But the restraining wall supporting it continued to get more twisted.

Bruce Steele, Spokane’s transportation director, said the wall has been flagged for repair, but it’s not at the top of the fix-it list.

Neil said he has yet to figure out how much the repair will cost, but that it will be a “pretty good hit to us from a dollar standpoint.”

Mike Gribner of the state Department of Transportation guesses the materials alone could cost between $50,000 and $100,000. The state DOT uses such restraining walls more often than the city.

Whatever the cost, the problem may require something more than money to fix. Like driver’s education.

Some motorists run into the guard rail straight-on. Others turn too wide and side-swipe the barrier that keeps them from tumbling onto the railroad tracks below.

Tina Marks, who has lived at the corner for 10 years, said she’s seen a couple wrecks there this year. In 1995, she saw eight or nine smashups.

“I don’t know if they do it on purpose or what,” Marks said from behind a screen door.

“They should do something about that.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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