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Work starts today to widen I-90 in Spokane Valley

The 2011 road construction season moves into high gear today with the start of a $15 million project to widen Interstate 90 to six lanes from Sullivan to Barker roads.

It is the third major project to get going this year, following the city’s launch last week of efforts to rebuild Second Avenue and to create a new Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

The I-90 widening in Spokane Valley is not expected to become a major obstacle for traffic since two lanes will be kept open in each direction during daytime travel hours. However, slowdowns are possible.

Speeds will be reduced through the construction zone and lane widths will be narrowed to 11 feet, compared with the normal 12-foot width, said Al Gilson, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Lane closures are possible during evening and nighttime hours.

Construction is expected to last until late October.

Acme Concrete Paving Inc. of Spokane is the lead contractor on the job and will pour a mix made from Portland cement.

The work will not only widen the freeway from four to six lanes, it will also replace the original freeway lanes that date back to the 1950s, regional WSDOT director Keith Metcalf said in a press release.

“As construction funding becomes available, we hope to continue this widening process in stages to Liberty Lake and eventually the Idaho border,” he said.

As part of the widening, the contract calls for replacing the current open median and cable barrier with a concrete median and closed drainage system.

The vertical clearance at Flora Road will be increased. Noise barrier walls will be erected, too.

Detour lanes through the construction zone will be shifted as the work proceeds.

Other projects

• Two other major projects are planned on I-90 this construction season, including pavement repair west of downtown and overpass reconstruction at Altamont and Havana streets.

• Division Street is due for resurfacing from Euclid to Francis avenues.

The work west of downtown on I-90 and on Division will begin Monday.

• Also this spring, Mission Avenue will get rebuilt from Napa to Greene streets.

• Work has already started on construction of a new Martin Luther King Way, which has forced closure of Spokane Falls Boulevard between Division and Hamilton streets as well as closure of the intersection of Main Avenue and Pine Street. The closure on Spokane Falls Boulevard will last until May 15.

• Eastbound U.S. Highway 2 at its interchange with I-90 will be reduced to a single lane Tuesday through Thursday for expansion joint repairs.

• Eastbound I-90 at Altamont Street will be reduced to two lanes today from 9 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. for work on lighting. The eastbound Altamont on ramp will be closed.

Construction map

To help drivers navigate the construction minefield, state and local agencies have created a construction map and opened a new website,

The map is available at the website or at three locations: Spokane City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard, first floor information desk; Spokane County Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave.; and Spokane Regional Transportation Council, 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

Rail crossing enforcement

North Idaho drivers better stop and look twice at railroad crossings on Thursday.

Law enforcement officers intend to ticket drivers who fail to abide by crossing laws.

Officers on trains and in patrol vehicles will be conducting the crossing enforcement. Additional officers will adopt crossings within their jurisdictions for additional enforcement.

The work is being undertaken in conjunction with Operation Lifesaver.

Through focused enforcement, officers hope to draw public attention to the need to stop, look and listen at crossings.

Deaths under investigation

BNSF Railway officials said they were looking into circumstances last week surrounding the deaths Wednesday of two railroad employees and a shuttle van driver who were killed when their van was struck by a 106-car grain train with three locomotives at a crossing near Kelso, Wash.

A third BNSF employee in the van was hospitalized in Portland.

The four were leaving a rail yard near Longview after the railroad workers had completed a shift. The crossing where the accident occurred was a private road and was marked with crossing and stop signs.

Netting does its job

The WSDOT reported that rock netting along I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass did its job in protecting motorists from some huge rocks that fell off a freeway cliff Tuesday.

Netting six miles east of the summit held back the falling rocks, including one that measured 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide next to the westbound lanes, which were temporarily closed.

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