Arrow-right Camera

Washington Voices

Vocal Point: Is one-way Sprague a public hazard?

I am concerned that we may go forward with a ballot issue without carefully evaluating what we might learn, the possible interpretations of the result, and/or the unintended consequences.

The problem: One-way traffic west on Sprague in front of Station 1 creates a legally indefensible public safety hazard. To wit, a 1 minute and 20 second delay in responding to emergency calls originating east of the station.

Proposed solution:    Offer the voters a $6 million bond issue to beautify, repair and turn Sprague back to two-way traffic.

It is almost a certainty that the voters will reject such a proposal for the following reasons: 1) They like one-way traffic; 2) They don’t want to incur a $6 million debt; 3) They don’t like two-way traffic: 4) They want to keep the 1 minute and 20 second delay. (Of which the general public has no knowledge.); 5) Your own reason for voting no.

Will we learn anything from such an election? Not likely!

Unintended consequences: Station 1 is strategically placed to service a certain number of citizens. Approximately one-half of them live east of the station. Assume that one of them has a cardiac arrest. Assume that person has four minutes without EMS treatment before brain damage or death will occur. Assume the 911 call came in to the station the minute the heart stopped. Assume it takes 1 minute and 20 seconds to get to Sprague and University. The EMS crew now has 2 minutes and 40 seconds to find the patient, set up and start treatment.

Assume the patient dies, and it is determined that the 1 minute and 20 second delay between the 911 call and the EMS crew arriving at Sprague and University was a contributing cause of death.  The patient’s estate sues the fire district and the city. The fire district’s argument to the jury goes something like this: We had called to the city’s attention both verbally and in writing that the one-way traffic on Sprague was delaying our emergency services east of the station by 1 minute and 20 seconds, but the city did nothing to eliminate the delay although it had the ability to do so.

The city’s argument to the jury goes something like this:  Yes, we were aware of the public safety hazard created by the 1 minute and 20 second delay due to the one-way traffic on Sprague, so we asked the citizens whether to keep the one-way traffic or to pass a $6 million bond issue to turn the traffic to two-way. The citizens voted to keep the one-way traffic, and therefore the city has no liability.

We have had exhaustive debate over the effect, or lack thereof, that one-way traffic on Sprague has had on the Sprague Avenue businesses. Please give the public the same opportunity to debate the effect, or the lack thereof, that one-way traffic on Sprague has on public safety.

Spokane Valley resident Howard Herman can be reached by email at

There are two comments on this story »