City officials say the new traffic lights on Fourth Avenue at Walnut and Maple will reduce the number of traffic accidents at that busy downtown location.
In 1994 and 1995, police reported 45 accidents at the two intersections, including two accidents involving pedestrians at Fourth and Maple.
The new traffic lights, which cost $139,000, were turned on for the first time Friday.
The lights will help control traffic entering and exiting Interstate 90 at Maple and Walnut.
Walnut at Fourth Avenue carries 14,900 vehicles a day, and Maple between Third and Fourth avenues carries 20,400 vehicles. But between Fourth and the freeway, Maple has 27,500 vehicles a day.
The differences reflect the travel patterns between downtown, the freeway and residential areas to the north and south, traffic officials said.
For example, the Fourth Avenue off-ramp has 10,000 vehicles a day. Many of those vehicles turn north.
However, Fourth Avenue between Maple and Walnut carries 5,000 vehicles a day.
Without the signals, motorists exiting the westbound lanes had been forced to wait for breaks in traffic at Fourth and Walnut.
Pedestrians trying to cross Fourth at Maple often faced a rush of traffic that was reluctant to stop, said Bruce Steele, transportation director for the city.
Steele said he tried to cross Maple at Fourth while checking on the light-installation project last week and was nearly hit a car.
“I had to stand in the middle of the street and hope someone didn’t pick me off,” Steele said.
Many of the accidents in the past two years involved vehicles colliding at right angles. Those can lead to injuries more easily because one car frequently strikes the door panel of the other, Steele said.
The installation of traffic lights won’t stop all of the accidents, but they will reduce the more dangerous side impacts, he said.
Colvico Inc. of Spokane was hired under a $90,100 contract to provide the lights and install them. The city purchased the light standards and installed electrical conduit in the pavement.