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Spokane Valley City Council sets speed trap

Limit raised on part of Indiana, lowered at another

Spokane Valley City Council members removed one speed trap on Indiana Avenue Tuesday night and immediately replaced it with another. In doing so they also ignored the advice of their senior traffic engineer.

This summer Indiana Avenue was extended east of Sullivan Road to connect with the intersection of Mission Avenue and Flora Road. The speed limit on the formerly dead end road was 25 mph. Traffic engineer Inga Note came before the council in July to request raising the speed limit from 25 to 35 mph. When the council voted down the request, the road reverted to the default speed limit of 25 mph.

Since then the city has received more than 100 letters complaining about the low speed limit, mostly from people who work or own businesses on Indiana Avenue east of Sullivan. Numerous speeding tickets have been written there and Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven previously told the council that he recommended raising it to 35 mph.

After a lengthy discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting, a divided council voted to raise the speed limit on Indiana Avenue to 35 mph on the section between Sullivan Road and the couplet and then lower it to 30 mph on the new one-way couplet, which is named Mission Parkway westbound and Indiana Parkway eastbound. The speed limit on Mission Avenue east of Flora is 35 mph, which means drivers will have to be paying attention to notice that the speed limit drops on just the one-way sections.

Note said Tuesday that she is still recommending a 35 mph speed limit in that area “to create continuity and to prevent driver confusion.” A traffic study shows that 85 percent of drivers are going 36 mph or slower on westbound Mission Parkway and 38 mph or slower on eastbound Indiana Parkway. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices states that any speed limit should be within five miles per hour of the 85th percentile speed. The new road was also designed for a speed limit of 35 mph, she said.

Neighborhood resident Richard Harmon said he had no problem with a speed limit of 35 mph west of Flora Road because the new road is in the middle of an empty field. “There’s nothing there,” he said. “There’s no hazard involved that I can see.”

Resident Mary Pollard said she thought all arterials should be posted at 30 mph. “I think it would be a good idea to slow down,” she said. “We have a lot of recreational use.”

It was Councilman Arne Woodard’s suggestion to make the speed limit a mix of 35 and 30 mph. “I might as well lead the charge again,” he said.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she didn’t favor the split speed limit. “I think it would be confusing,” she said.

Note said that she takes collisions, bike and pedestrian activity, driveways and other factors into consideration when recommending a speed limit. The new section of road should be 35 mph because it is empty, she said. “There’s nothing out there right now,” she said.

Slower speed limits mean that it takes longer for business traffic to get through the area, said Councilman Bill Gothmann. “Time is worth money,” he said. “We claim that we’re business friendly.”

Woodard said the council could be business friendly by making Indiana Avenue between Sullivan Road and the couplet 35 miles per hour. “They want the five-lane back to 35,” he said. “I’m fine with that.”

“All you’re doing is building a speed trap,” said Councilman Gary Schimmels. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The council can come back and change the speed limit later, said Councilman Chuck Hafner. “We need to leave it 35 until we find out different that that’s not working,” he said.

Several council members suggested dropping the speed limit on Mission Avenue east of Flora Road to 30 mph to make the speed limits more consistent. Mayor Tom Towey said he didn’t favor a speed limit that goes from 35 to 30 and then back to 35 mph. “I think that the Mission Avenue issue should be a separate issue,” he said.

City Manager Mike Jackson said the council could not vote on changing the speed limit on Mission Avenue because it was not on the agenda and public notice had not been given. The council also does not have a recommendation from the traffic engineer to base their discussion on, he said.

The discussion went on so long that several council members appeared to get impatient. “This is a reasonable and fair compromise,” said Grassel. “Why are we each arguing amongst ourselves?”

“I think we’re just wasting a lot of time,” said Councilman Dean Grafos. “We’re not talking about brain surgery.”

Despite saying they didn’t want to create a speed limit that changed from 35 to 30 and then back to 35 mph, Grassel, Towey and Hafner voted to do just that. They were joined by Woodard and Grafos. Council members Gothmann and Schimmels voted against the split speed limit.

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