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Police aren’t getting over lane changes

Mon., Aug. 25, 2008

Getting There this week is dedicated to getting over.

It’s not just common courtesy for drivers to switch lanes or slow down when they approach patrol cars during traffic stops. It’s also the law in Idaho and Washington, and doing otherwise can result in tickets that cost $75 and $124, respectively.

But the pain in the wallet is nothing compared with the damage and injury that can be caused if a collision occurs, Washington State Trooper Joe Leibrecht said.

“That is the greatest hazard out there,” Leibrecht said. “More troopers are injured and killed by being struck by another vehicle … than assaults by suspects.”

An example came just after midnight last Sunday near the Argonne exit of Interstate 90 in Spokane Valley. Trooper Allen W. Larned, 47, had parked behind the vehicle he had just stopped in the westbound lanes when his cruiser was struck from behind by a Coeur d’Alene man. That crash knocked Larned’s cruiser into traffic, where it was struck by a 2005 Dodge Caravan driven by a Richland man.

Larned has been discharged from Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. The crash remains under investigation, Leibrecht said. But 29-year-old William D. Zink, of Coeur d’Alene, was booked into jail on the charge of vehicular assault.

“We think this is a pretty easy request for people to honor,” WSP Chief John Batiste said in a news release. “Simply ease over to the left, or ease off the gas.”

The law doesn’t just apply to law enforcement. It requires drivers to give room to fire trucks, ambulances and tow trucks, Leibrecht said.

“We try to make it public education more than just writing a ticket,” he said. “But if it poses a drastic enough hazard, it certainly is a citable offense.”

The same rules apply in Idaho under a law passed two years ago, said Idaho State Police Lt. Chris Schenck.

“It’s a huge worry,” Schenck said. “Even if you are in your vehicle, as the trooper in Washington found out, it can only protect you so much.”

In 2007, WSP Trooper Mike Turcott made a routine traffic stop only to have his side mirror smashed off by a passing car.

“If I’d opened the door two seconds sooner, I would have lost my arm instead of my mirror,” he said in a news release.

While the law doesn’t apply to vehicles that are broken down, drivers should still either change lanes or slow down to avoid them, Leibrecht said.

“It could be your mother or sister out there. I try to tell people to imagine yourself out there and keep that in mind when you pass by,” Leibrecht said. “All we ask is what is prudent and safe. We are not looking for abrupt actions or lane changes.

“If you can get over, we appreciate it,” he said. “If you can’t, please slow down.”

A patch for Hatch

The Hatch Road Bridge where it crosses Latah Creek, just east of U.S. Highway 195, will be closed Tuesday through Thursday.

Crews will be repairing broken and loose asphalt on the bridge’s deck from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Motorists need to find alternate routes. However, Hatch Road farther north remains closed for construction.

That project is continuing on between 54th and 43rd avenues. So folks who normally use U.S. 195 should detour to 37th Avenue and use Perry Street, streets spokeswoman Ann Deasy said in a news release.

While the Hatch Road Bridge is closing, the city announced that the Maple Street Bridge and Maple Street is expected to reopen Sept. 5, weather permitting, of course.

Belt me in

In the spirit of even more projects coming to completion, crews are expected to finish repaving a number of residential streets in the area of Belt Street and Indiana Avenue by Friday. At that time, weather permitting, Belt will open from Augusta to Montgomery avenues. However, motorists can expect some minor obstructions while the final detail work is done, Deasy said.

And while Belt is finishing, work continues to reconstruct Driscoll Boulevard from Alberta to Assembly streets. City engineer Ken Brown said that work is not expected to be completed until October.

There will also be lane restrictions on Hamilton Street from the Centennial Trail Bridge to Trent Avenue, at North Foothills Drive and other locations for pavement grinding and repaving.

Bridge repairs aplenty

Bridge crews are getting a workout this week as they repair several area bridges, work that will result in lane closures.

Crews will close lanes on westbound Interstate 90 at the Latah Bridge on Wednesday from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Drivers should expect delays from slow traffic and congestion, said Al Gilson, spokesman for the Washington Department of Transportation.

On the same side of the freeway, crews will close westbound lanes of I-90 to work on the bridge at the Perry Curves, milepost 282, from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. to work on deck repairs.

Switching to the eastbound lanes, crews on Tuesday will close lanes on I-90 at the Havana Street Bridge for similar deck repairs, Gilson said.

Then, on Trent Avenue, crews will be working on the Trent Bridge. Flaggers will control traffic from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Wednesday. And work may also take place Wednesday evening after 9 p.m., Gilson said.

Place your Betz

Today through Wednesday, crews will be working on the signal system on State Route 904 at Betz Road in Cheney. Crews will work from 7-5 p.m. each day, and drivers should expect lane restrictions and congestion, Gilson said.

When the crews are done in Cheney, they will do the same work on U.S. Highway 2 at the Deer Park-Milan Road intersection in Riverside. That work should commence on Thursday and Friday, and drivers should expect lane restrictions and delays.

Mountain closed

A contract was awarded recently for the work to repair damage caused by runoff on Mount Spokane Park Drive, Gilson said.

“We don’t have a start date on that yet. It will only be a couple weeks of work,” Gilson said.

Meanwhile, state crews are working on roads inside the park. Those repairs aren’t scheduled to be done until the third week in September. “So the road is already closed to the general public,” Gilson said.

While the park won’t be ready, all other state crews will shut down at noon Friday in advance of Labor Day.

“We usually write that into the contracts,” Gilson said, “so the crews are not in people’s way traveling for the holiday.”


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