November 26, 2007 in City

Trails Road neighbors want speed reduced

By The Spokesman-Review
Brian Plonka photo

Bruce Ellwein stands at the intersection of Euclid and Trails roads just west of Spokane, where his wife and daughter were involved in an auto accident.
(Full-size photo)

Three drivers crashed off a two-mile stretch of Trails Road last week in a string of icy wrecks that residents along the road say are becoming all too common.

Those neighbors are pushing Spokane County to make Trails Road safer by adding turn lanes and flashing lights, and by reducing the speed limit to 45 mph, down from 55, along one curvy stretch. Their work is prompted in part by a serious crash on Halloween that closed the road for hours.

“It was that last accident that happened with the two minivans and seeing the helicopter and the Jaws of Life,” said Mary Houglum, who is helping organize neighbors. “I’m scared to death.”

The road is a key link between the north end of Spokane and the West Plains, stretching from Government Way to Hayford Road. Many have used it to get to and from Fairchild Air Force Base. But with increased development along Hayford Road – a new Wal-Mart, large apartment complexes and Northern Quest Casino – the number of cars traveling Trails Road has increased dramatically, as have the crashes.

From 2004 to 2006 there were seven collisions involving injuries along the two-mile, 55 mph stretch, Washington State Department of Transportation statistics show. In the first seven months of this year, there were 11 injury collisions.

Neighbors say the shaded 55 mph section is frequently icy. And drivers regularly pass other vehicles on the narrow right-hand shoulder, they say.

Bruce Ellwein knows first-hand the dangers of Trails Road. He has lived nearby on Euclid Road for more than three years. His wife and daughter were rear-ended by the driver of a Bronco who failed to notice they were stopped, waiting to turn left onto Euclid. The impact of the crash pushed their car 385 feet down the road and sent the Bronco into a steep ditch.

Ellwein missed the call from his wife about the crash, instead getting a scary voice-mail message.

“I turned it on and all I could hear was, ‘Ma’am, you’re going to have to let me put the blood pressure cuff on,’ ” he said.

Ellwein’s daughter wasn’t seriously injured, but his wife required months of physical therapy to recover.

The intersection at Euclid is one where neighbors want a left turn lane installed. The other is at Old Trails Road.

“The justification has been met at Old Trails Road, and we’re investigating and looking very aggressively at installing one at Euclid,” said Spokane County Traffic Engineer Barry Greene.

The county applied for and received grant money in 2005 to improve rural roads like Trails. Plans are in place to install centerline rumble strips along its length, replace guard rails, add white, flexible guideposts and put in at least one turn lane.

As for the requested speed limit change, Greene said more information is needed. Any reduction would have to be approved by the Spokane County Commission after a public hearing.

Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlain said he doesn’t see much speeding in the 55 mph zone, but he sees many cars leave that zone and continue to drive 55 or 60 in the 45 mph zone.

School bus safety

After years of applying stringent seat belt standards to automobiles, the U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed requiring them in smaller school buses and providing specific standards for seat belts in larger buses if districts choose to have them.

If the rule goes into effect, all new school buses would have to have higher seat backs, and new small buses would have to have three-point seat belts.

Seat belts still wouldn’t be required on full-size school buses, and existing buses would not have to be retrofitted.

Slow going

Hayford Road is now open south of Highway 2, but signal work could prompt lane closures on the highway.

Cheney-Plaza Road is closed from Highway 904 to Alki Street.

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