April 21, 2008 in City

Getting There: More traffic to jam Monroe

Thomas Clouse and Jody Lawrence-Turner The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

The Monroe Street Bridge is busy during afternoon rush hour now that road closures have limited access to the Maple Street Bridge.
(Full-size photo)

Just as commuters were getting used to stop-and-go traffic on Monroe Street, the city is closing another major north-south route.

Crews planned to shut down Wall Street at 7 this morning for a complete reconstruction between Wellesley and Francis avenues.

Some traffic will be detoured to Division Street but most is expected to go to Monroe, which is also the main detour for the bigger project to reconstruct a section of Ash Street north of the Monroe Street Bridge. So Monroe, which is already clogged, is bound to get busier.

“However, most of Monroe’s congestion has been from Indiana south into downtown,” said Steve Sather, project engineer for the city. “So I don’t expect it will affect the Monroe Street Bridge any more” than the current delays.

Reconstruction of Wall will take about three months.

In addition, crews are tearing up the intersection of Wellesley and Wall to replace it with concrete.

“That is going to occur during the first three weeks, so there will be a total closure of that intersection during that time,” Slather said.

Queen Avenue will become the primary detour for east-west traffic from Wellesley.

Commuters can drive past detour signs to reach their homes if they live between Monroe and Division, Sather said. “Drivers will still be able to get through to the side streets.”

Meanwhile, Oak Street residents are complaining about speeding commuters using side streets to avoid the Ash Street reconstruction. Police are going to increase patrols, Sather warned. “They are working closely with us.”

Time for motorcycle safety reminders

As occasional sunshine entices motorcyclists onto freeways and byways, authorities remind riders to be safe.

Feeling the wind blow through your hair as you cruise down the road or seeing how fast your new Kawasaki can go might be tempting, but one mistake could be fatal, officials say.

The importance of a helmet was reinforced for Todd Ellsworth on Thursday morning when he crashed on the Geiger off-ramp from Interstate 90. His motorcycle skidded off the roadway, and he went down in the street. His helmet suffered a severe case of road rash.

“The helmet saved me a trip to the hospital,” Ellsworth told State Patrol troopers.

Washington repealed its helmet law in the late 1970s, said State Patrol Trooper Mark Baker. “During that time we saw motorcycle deaths increase by 124 percent. Once Washington’s law was re-enacted, motorcycle fatalities dropped by 50 percent, and severe head injuries dropped by almost 60 percent.”

Authorities suggest not just wearing a helmet, but also thick clothing such as leather jackets and pants.

“Sometimes the only thing standing between you and the pavement is your gear,” Baker said.

Also, wear something brightly colored, like a safety vest, said Spokane Valley police Sgt. Mike Zollars.

Often motorists don’t see motorcyclists, Zollars said. So he recommends a longer-than-normal following distance and “always drive defensively,”

Having the bike’s lights on helps drivers see motorcyclists, authorities say.

Watching the weight on Freya/Market bridges

Police agencies will team up this week to watch for truckers violating weight restrictions on the Freya/Market corridor bridges from Interstate 90 up to U.S. Highway 2.

From Tuesday to Thursday, several commercial vehicle enforcement officers from Spokane, Liberty Lake, Spokane County and the State Patrol will be issuing $411 fines, Spokane police Officer Teresa Fuller said.

“The commercial vehicle officers will also be looking at equipment and logbooks to ensure everything’s in order,” Fuller said.

The only bridges along that corridor that don’t have weight restrictions are the Monroe and Division street bridges, Fuller said. The others “were engineered at a time trucks were only able to haul smaller loads,” she said.

Interested truckers or commuters can download a copy of bridge restrictions from the city street department Web site at www.spokanestreet department.org.

Coeur d’Alene slowdown

The Idaho Transportation Department on Thursday will begin the project to replace the Ninth Street underpass at Interstate 90.

“The underpass was damaged by over-height vehicles traveling under the structure on the interstate,” ITD spokeswoman Barbara Babic said in a press release.

The underpass will remain closed until the project is complete in mid- to late July.

To minimize the impact to interstate traffic, the removal of the bridge spans will be done from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., from now to May 1, she said. The new beams will be put in place during the same work hours between May 6 and May 16.

“The interstate will be closed, and traffic will be detoured around the work zone during nighttime work hours,” she said.

Idaho speeding patrols begin this week

Speeders will get more attention starting this week from police agencies.

Kootenai County deputies and Post Falls officers will be “strictly enforcing violations which can be attributed to aggressive driving habits, with the intent to help reduce the number of accidents for our county,” Sgt. Kevin Smart said in a press release. They’ll be working with the state Office of Highway Operations and Safety.

The state reports that 267 people died in Idaho collisions during 2006 – 116 of them as a result of aggressive driving. Three-quarters of the fatal collisions occurred on roadways with higher speed limits.

Officers will be focusing on drivers who speed, fail to signal, tailgate, cut in and out of traffic, fail to yield to merging traffic and ignore stop signs, Smart said.

“This type of driving not only puts the drivers and passengers at risk but is also a tremendous risk to vehicles around them,” Post Falls Lt. Greg McLean said.

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