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West Plains transportation workshop seeks community input

Mon., March 18, 2013

Transportation improvements on Spokane’s West Plains will be the subject of a community workshop Thursday evening.

Planners want to hear about what kinds of projects are needed, including improvements for bus riders, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The workshop is a joint effort of local governments, state transportation officials, schools, tribes and Fairchild Air Force Base.

It is part of a wider effort to identify public infrastructure needed to support urban growth. Spokane County commissioners last week voted to extend the urban growth area to the edge of the air base, opening additional land for development.

Industrialization, shipping, entertainment, shopping and employment on the West Plains have all brought increases in traffic. The Interstate 90 interchanges at Geiger Boulevard and state Highway 902 to Medical Lake often back up during heavy traffic.

Northern Quest Resort and Casino generates a high volume of traffic throughout the day, and residential and commercial development at U.S. Highway 2 and Hayford Road also adds cars to the roads.

Many of the routes are busy enough now that traffic slows.

A 2011 transportation study showed that I-90 carries more than 10 million tons of freight annually across the West Plains while U.S. 2 carries 4 million to 10 million tons annually.

To avoid future congestion, planners have suggested building a collector arterial parallel to U.S. 2 on Sixth, 12th or 21st avenues in Airway Heights. Similarly, Sprague Avenue could be extended east from the casino and join U.S. 2 at the airport interchange.

Another possibility is widening U.S. 2 to seven lanes between Hayford Road and the interchange for Spokane International Airport. Widening Hayford and Trails roads, which would improve north-south traffic flow, did not rank high on the list of priorities in the 2011 study.

Hayford could be rerouted near the airport to make room for a second runway.

Reconstructing the Geiger and Medical Lake interchanges has already been identified.

Greater use of transit, van pools, nonmotorized transportation and off-peak work hours are other methods for helping prevent future congestion, officials said.

A second workshop on West Plains traffic is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on May 16 at Sunset Elementary School.

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Francis projects

Traffic on Francis Avenue will be slowed down by a series of projects this spring.

The state Department of Transportation said it will eliminate left turns at Francis and Market Street to help move traffic past a bridge construction project just east of Market. Francis has been reduced to one lane in each direction next to the bridge site.

In addition, the city is installing temporary traffic signals on Francis in preparation for a repaving project from Division Street to Seven Mile Road.

A new signal system is planned following the repaving. The signals will have better left-turn protection and will coordinate traffic flow through the intersections at Monroe and Wall streets.

Reconstruction of Francis between Crestline and Haven streets will result in closure of that segment later this work season.

Lane restrictions

Lane restrictions are expected today and Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Maple Street between Second and Fifth avenues to make room for electrical work. Also, restrictions are expected on the eastbound off-ramp from I-90 to Maple and at the intersection of Walnut Street and Fifth Avenue.

Shoulder restrictions are possible on I-90 during the work.

Bridge repair work on I-90 at Flora Road and the Country Vista/Appleway exit will result in lane restrictions today through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m.

Shoring up air traffic control

A Republican U.S. senator from Kansas last week announced that he is introducing an amendment to protect funding for air traffic control towers at small airports around the country. The Federal Aviation Administration has said it may cut funding for the small airport tower operations, which are done by private contract.

Towers at 189 small airports, including Felts Field in Spokane, may fall victim to budget cuts under a sequestration of federal spending.

“Irresponsible cuts from sequestration will put the flying public at risk, impair access to rural areas, jeopardize national and civil security missions and cost jobs,” Sen. Jerry Moran said in a news release last week.

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