May 23, 2011 in City

Travelers by interstate encountering wait time

Construction delaying traffic in both directions
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Traffic on westbound Interstate 90 in downtown Spokane was backed up last week during road work.
(Full-size photo)

Congestion is now a fact of life on Interstate 90, with backups occurring almost every day from construction restrictions through Spokane and Spokane Valley.

Pavement repairs west of the downtown area are causing frequent delays at the top of Sunset Hill, where eastbound traffic is squeezed into a single lane.

Westbound traffic is frequently slowed on the viaduct downtown as drivers feed onto a split two-lane detour across the Latah Creek Bridge.

On Friday, westbound traffic was backed up to the Division Street exit.

To the east, problems with construction lanes near Barker Road last week led to delays eastbound, but repair work was completed Thursday, allowing traffic to pass more quickly Friday.

Today should be the last day that westbound traffic at Stateline is reduced to a single lane for paving at a new port-of-entry weigh station.

In addition, speed limits have been reduced to 50 mph through the two main construction zones west of downtown and east of Sullivan Road.

Al Gilson, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the speed limits were reduced as a safety precaution. “Those are some narrow lanes out there,” he said.

The state is expanding the freeway from four to six lanes from Sullivan to Barker roads in a $15 million project.

Pavement ruts are being removed in a $7.8 million project on a five-mile stretch of concrete west of downtown, including long-term work on the Latah and Abbott Road bridges. That project will last into 2012.

Freeway delays are likely to increase this summer when a third project, to repair overpasses at Altamont and Havana streets, gets under way. Traffic will be reduced from three lanes to two through the construction area.

Motorists can keep up with progress and locations of detours online at spokanefreewayfix.net.

Fewer people plan to hit the road

The high price of gasoline may be affecting travel plans. AAA said last week that the number of travelers this Memorial Day weekend will be up from last year, but not in private vehicles.

The number of travelers going at least 50 miles from home will increase from 34.8 million to 34.9 million, mainly because more people will fly. Travelers by automobile will be down slightly, from 31 million to 30.9 million, possibly because gasoline is about 38 percent more expensive than a year ago, AAA said.

In a survey that accompanied the AAA projections, four out of 10 people interviewed said higher gasoline prices will affect their plans.

Cops cracking down on seat belt scofflaws

A seat belt enforcement campaign gets under way today and will continue through June 5 in Spokane, Whitman and Pend Oreille counties.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission is sponsoring the stepped-up patrols involving the State Patrol and local agencies, including college police forces.

Seat belts reduce the chance of being killed in a collision by 70 percent, the commission said.

Getting caught without a belt costs $124.

More spots to watch for construction delays

• The freeway ramps at I-90 and Hamilton Street will undergo repairs early this week from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The ramps will be open, but lane restrictions are likely.

• Southbound U.S. Highway 395 near Wandermere Road will be reduced to one lane of traffic after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays to allow trucks access to the freeway construction work there.

• Paving work continues on U.S. 395 south of Ritzville to Lee Road, where a contractor has been stripping down asphalt and repaving the southbound lanes, which served as the two-lane route before the newer northbound lanes were built.

• Spokane Falls Boulevard from Hamilton to Division streets and Main Avenue at Pine Street will be closed until June 10 for construction of a new Martin Luther King Jr. Way just east of downtown.

• The city is also about to start work on Post Street north of Indiana. Road signs say a full closure will begin May 31 to excavate and rebuild the street under a voter-approved bond issue.


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