Residents living near a busy North Side intersection want to see more safety changes made to what they believe is one of the most dangerous roadways in the area.
Some who live near the intersection of Highway 206 and Bruce Road say a two-car accident on Feb. 1 is just one more example of why a traffic light or a four-way stop is needed there.
But a spokesman for the state’s Department of Transportation said if there is a problem, it has nothing to do with a lack of safety signs or a traffic signal. Al Gilson thinks it’s an issue of negligent drivers.
“A light is not warranted,” DOT spokesman Gilson said. “And there’s not much a sign would do to keep people from running it.”
The highway runs east to west; Bruce road runs north to south. A stop sign is in place for travelers on Bruce Road, but there’s no sign for east-to-west traffic because the road is a state highway, known to most as Mount Spokane Highway.
Earlier this month, four people were taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center when a Toyota pickup collided with a Ford Explorer at the intersection.
The pickup, driven by 25-year-old Crystal Herrick of Kellogg, was headed south on Bruce Road when it collided with the rear of the Explorer which was headed west on Highway 206, the Washington State Patrol said.
The Explorer spun, left the road and rolled four times into a plowed field. One of the four people in the Explorer suffered severe neck injuries.
Herrick was cited for running the stop sign, according to WSP spokesman Chris Powell.
People who live in the area say the accident is just one of many at that intersection.
And, since nearby Mount Spokane High School opened its doors last fall, traffic has increased.
Bill Sprague and his wife, Geraldine, have lived in the area for 12 years. They’ve had two accidents on the corner - in 1988 and 1994.
Since the most recent accident, Geraldine has had three cervical fusions of her spine and is no longer able to work. Bill also suffers permanent injuries from the accidents, he said.
From Jan. 1, 1991 to Dec. 31, 1996, 38 accidents occurred at the intersection, according to DOT statistics.
All but seven of those accidents were the result of at least one driver failing to yield, 23 were injury-related and none resulted in fatalities, according to the DOT.
“The majority of those accidents were during the day and the pavement was dry,” Gilson said, adding that only seven of the 38 total accidents were at night.
The Washington State Patrol investigated the accidents and forwarded them to the transportation department.
“The problem that we have isn’t a traffic volume problem,” Gilson said. “What we have here is a situation where motorists are not properly operating their equipment.”
He said a traffic signal at the intersection would cost at least $100,000 to install.
“There’s no doubt that’s a high accident location, but there’s also no doubt that’s a result of operator error,” he said.
Gilson said the highway department will soon be putting up advanced signs alerting motorists on Bruce Road that the highway traffic does not stop.
Last year, the transportation department repaved and added turn lanes to Highway 206 from a half-mile east of Bruce Road.
Accident figures since the highway was reconfigured and Mount Spokane High School opened aren’t available.
One nearby resident likes the road changes, but she still believes a light or a four-way stop is needed. She points to a four-way stop on Bruce and Peone Road as evidence.
“If you’re coming up to the highway on Bruce from Peone Road, I think it’s easy to assume you’re approaching a four-way stop because there’s one there,” said Carolyn Fries.
Peone Road is 1-1/2 miles south and runs parallel to the highway. A four-way stop marks its intersection with Bruce.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Tom Konis, who lives at the intersection of Bruce and Peone. “We’ve got half the traffic here and a four-way stop, but up the road, where it’s really needed, there’s only a two-way stop. Explain that.”
Gilson said it is not out of the ordinary that Bruce Road, a county road, come to a two-way stop at a state highway.
The decision to put a four-way stop at Bruce and Peone was made by Spokane County, not the DOT, which has jurisdiction over Bruce and Highway 206.
Konis’ wife, Kathy, was hit at the highway intersection three years ago.
“We take our daughter to school at the new high school,” Tom Konis said. “It’s really hard trying to make a turn from Bruce onto the highway. If they don’t put up a light they at least need to make it a four-way stop.”
A yellow light used to flash for east and west highway travelers to warn them that they were approaching Bruce Road. The light was taken down during last year’s construction and was never put back up.
Gilson said the highway’s “profile” was flattened so drivers could have a better view as they approached the intersection.
“We are grappling with this,” Gilson said. “It baffles us as to why people don’t stop.”
Sprague said the presence of the high school along the highway should require the highway department to re-think its plans.
“You’d think that would be enough motivation for them to put up a light,” Sprague said. “I hope one of the students doesn’t have to lose a life in order for that to happen.”
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