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Journey to winery will become a little safer

Mon., May 23, 2005

The tram up to Royal Riblet’s Spokane Valley mansion was retired long ago. So hundreds of people each week tackle the winding drive to the top of the hill.

They’re rewarded for braving the narrow, somewhat scary Fruithill Road with breathtaking views and wine sampling at the Arbor Crest Winery.

It’s about to become a little safer, courtesy of Spokane County.

Crews will be installing guardrails this summer on the road’s most dangerous cliffs.

Neighbors pushed for the project and are hoping that further improvements will be made in future years, said Jim van Loben Sels, Arbor Crest’s general manager.

The road needs to be widened, said van Loben Sels. If plowed snow is on the ground, it’s impossible for two cars to pass in some places.

So far there haven’t been any really bad accidents on the stretch of Fruithill Road leading up to the winery, he said, adding that people drive very carefully and winery staff are extremely careful not to let people over-imbibe.

But the guardrails will be welcome.

“It’s nice to see the county step up to bat and take the safety issues into account,” said von Loben Sels.

DOT to the rescue

After breaking down on the side of the road, most people’s first inclination is to call a friend, family member, AAA or a tow truck.

Maybe that first call should go to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

In its attempts to keep traffic flowing, the DOT has been putting increasing emphasis on its incident response trucks to clear broken-down vehicles.

According to their most recent quarterly report, more than 60 percent of traffic “incidents” on state highways last for less than 15 minutes because of DOT’s response trucks.

Fair warning

With all of the aggravation drivers have been experiencing around the Third Avenue project downtown, there’s apparently been a little road rage.

That’s where the Spokane Police Department’s traffic unit will be focusing its patrols this week.

Watch those speed limits. Traffic fines in work zones are double.

Slow going

Third Avenue downtown is causing both eastbound delays and delays on cross streets. A city press release advises “expect the unexpected.”

Getting There advises: Stay calm.

State crews will be patching eastbound Interstate 90 from just west of downtown to Argonne Road. Watch out for work through Wednesday.

Work begins this week on improving the intersection of Argonne Road and Bigelow Gulch Road.

Expect delays.

Spokane County’s sewer pipe installation on Dishman-Mica was postponed from last week to this week.

The road will be closed today and Tuesday between 8th Avenue and 16th Avenue. Detours will be in place.

The state will be grinding down the pavement on U.S. 395 from Colville to the Columbia River starting today.

Work will take place between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. and traffic will be reduced to a single lane. Delays of up to 15 minutes will be the norm.


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