June 17, 2013 in City

Statewide crackdown catches drivers on phones

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane drivers continue to ignore cellphone laws despite the risk of a $101 ticket.

State troopers and other officers cited 1,448 drivers in Washington May 20 through June 2. That’s more than the 1,059 tickets handed out last year during the annual “Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign.

In the four-county region of Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties, officers wrote 101 cellphone tickets compared with 55 a year ago.

It’s not illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving in Idaho.

Seat belt violations remained about the same over the past two enforcement campaigns, with about 300 citations issued each year in the region.

This year’s effort included the additional emphasis on cellphone violations, which may have led to the increase, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which funds the program.

State troopers said that catching people using a cellphone illegally is not easy, especially for officers driving marked patrol vehicles.

Drivers will quickly put a cellphone down if they see an officer, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigney.

“It’s a constant battle to try to curb that behavior,” he said.

Washington has been a national leader in trying to combat cellphone use, which experts say increases the risk of getting into an accident.

The state was the first in the nation to ban driver texting in 2007. A year later, Washington banned hands-on cellphone use while driving. Hands-free devices are still legal.

Nationally, 41 states have banned text messaging while only 11 states have outlawed hands-on talking on a cellphone.

Despite the apparent danger of using a cellphone while driving, about half of drivers across the country haven’t stopped.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 48 percent of motorists reported that they will answer their cellphones while driving, while 24 percent said they place calls from behind the wheel.

Sevigney said a lot of drivers don’t realize how the distraction reduces their awareness of what’s happening on the road around them.

New ferry preparation

Keller ferry service across the Columbia River on state Highway 21 is going to shut down on July 8 for six weeks to rebuild the ferry landings to accommodate the new Sanpoil ferry under construction at Grand Coulee.

The new vessel rides higher in the water and also has a wider deck to carry more vehicles.

Max J. Kuney Co., of Spokane, is under contract to rebuild ramps, flotation devices and electrical connections for the new ferry.

The Martha S., with its 12-car capacity, has been operating on the crossing since 1948.

The Sanpoil will hold 20 cars. The deck can accommodate up to two commercial tractor-trailer trucks on each sailing. The vessel is 116 feet long, or 41 feet longer than the Martha S.

Al Gilson, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation in Spokane, said a special christening ceremony and Colville tribal blessing are scheduled for Aug. 14 to mark the Sanpoil’s maiden voyage.

Comment on plan amendments

Members of the public are being asked to comment on an amendment to the Spokane region’s 2013 to 2016 transportation improvement plan to add three new repaving projects.

They include state Highway 290, also known as Trent Avenue, from Sullivan Road to the Idaho state line; Interstate 90 from Salnave Road to the Lincoln County line; and state Highway 904 from I-90 to Betz Road in Cheney. Grant funding for those jobs was recently approved.

Comments can be made through June 29 at the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, or by phone at (509) 343-6370.

Open house on corridor

The city of Spokane is hosting an open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on June 25 on a plan to improve Division, Browne and Ruby streets from I-90 northward to Sharp Avenue.

The meeting will be at the Washington State University Spokane Phase 1 classroom building, Room 122, at 668 N. Riverpoint Blvd.

The plan will identify improvements to make the corridor more inviting and safer for pedestrians while still moving traffic.

Events to close roads

Garland Avenue from Monroe to Wall streets will be closed on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Cruzin’ for Kids Car and Motorcycle Show.

Hillyard Appreciation Day is also on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be using Wabash, Olympic and Queen avenues from Market to Greene streets and Green from Wabash to Queen.

The Spokane Club’s 29th Annual Junior Triathlon is also on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon from the Spokane Club at Main Avenue and Monroe into Peaceful Valley to the west.

14th Avenue road work

Work on 14th Avenue from Lincoln to Grand Boulevard will begin on Wednesday, resulting in closure of the street. Inland Asphalt Co. of Spokane is the contractor.

Restrictions in the Valley

Westbound I-90 in Spokane Valley will be reduced to one lane in the vicinity of the Barker Road interchange on Thursday and Friday from 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning for overhead sign work.

Pines Road from Trent to 32nd avenues will have lane restrictions from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. while crews build new sidewalk ramps and repave the route, which serves as state Highway 27.

In addition, the southbound sidewalk from Trent to Marietta will be closed for installation of electrical conduit.

Elsewhere in the Valley, Sprague Avenue has lane restrictions from Park to Thierman roads through Saturday for repaving.

Ongoing projects

Work continues for repaving and repair of state Highway 291 from Division Street to the Stevens County line. That route follows Francis Avenue and Nine Mile Road. Paving work is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day until the project is completed.

Lane closures that have slowed I-90 traffic through downtown Spokane for the past two weeks were expected to end over the weekend. Crews were installing new lighting.

Bruce Road bridge project delayed

Spokane County commissioners last week voted to seek new bids on replacement of the bridge over Deadman Creek on Bruce Road. The rebid was forced by state and federal highway officials enforcing a law that requires a minimum of 2 percent of subcontract work be done by minority- or woman-owned businesses. The project is now expected in the 2014 construction season, officials said.

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