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State looking for ways to ease Interstate 90 congestion through Spokane

Mon., May 15, 2017

Work crews set up lane restricting barriers on eastbound Interstate 90 on the east end of downtown during morning rush hour  May 8. The restrictions are a start to a long repair project on the freeway. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Work crews set up lane restricting barriers on eastbound Interstate 90 on the east end of downtown during morning rush hour May 8. The restrictions are a start to a long repair project on the freeway. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

State transportation officials are looking for ways to head off traffic congestion on Interstate 90 through Spokane.

They are asking the public for help in identifying ways to ease the all-too-common slowdowns and backups.

An open house is set for Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the East Central Community Center gym, 500 S. Stone St.

The public can stop by at any time during the open house. There is no formal presentation planned. Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

“I-90 in the Spokane area through to the Idaho border is experiencing increased, regular congestion, primarily during peak commute hours,” state officials said in a news release.

“Congestion outside of peak periods is also on the rise,” officials said.

As a result, collisions are on the increase, too, which compounds the problem during busy travel times.

A study commissioned by the state found that the typical eastbound travel time from Four Lakes to the Idaho state line is 30 minutes when the freeway is moving freely.

During evening congestion, the travel time is now 36 minutes. That represents an increase of more than two minutes from 2012 to 2015, which is the most recent analysis.

The westbound slowdowns in the morning commute are not as severe. The delay in 2015 was about three minutes compared to the six-minute delay for the evening eastbound commute.

DKS Associates, based in Oakland, California, analyzed traffic data for I-90 and came up with a number of potential strategies.

A traffic management system would use overhead signs to establish variable speed limits; direct drivers to change lanes when a lane is blocked; and warn of slowdowns, backups and collisions ahead.

The study said about a fourth of congestion comes from collisions or disabled vehicles.

The “active traffic and demand management” system is in use on several roadways in Western Washington.

Other remedies might include a system where vehicles are allowed onto the freeway in a metering system that acts like a stoplight.

Some on- and off-ramps could be closed to reduce vehicle weaving and merging, which is a risk factor in accidents.

According to the study, accident hot spots are the eastbound I-90 on-ramp at U.S. Highway 195; the eastbound and westbound on-ramps at the Hamilton interchange; the eastbound on-ramp at Freya Street; the Maple Street interchange; and the Division Street interchange.

Crashes and other events that are slowing traffic have increased by 40 percent in the past five years, the study said.

Exit ramp backups onto the main line of the freeway are more common.

Improvements to interchange geometry in the downtown area and east Spokane are recommended.

Lack of shoulders between the U.S. 195 and Hamilton interchanges is also a problem because there is nowhere to pull out of traffic in case of a minor accident or disabled vehicle, the study said.

For more information, go to wsdot.wa.gov/planning/studies/i-90-four-lakes-idaho-operational-study.

Comments can be made by mail to WSDOT Eastern Region Traffic, 2714 N. Mayfair St., Spokane, WA, 99207 or by email to WSDOT’s Eastern Region assistant traffic engineer at frostal@wsdot.wa.gov.

I-90 bridge repair causes backups

The big Interstate 90 bridge repair project at Third Avenue continues to cause traffic backups in the eastbound lanes starting at about 2:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Workers are repairing expansion joints and concrete pavement.

The freeway is reduced to two through lanes at about the Hamilton exit to Altamont Street.

The Altamont eastbound off-ramp is closed and the eastbound on-ramp is closed from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

Division gateway project continues

In Spokane, work continues on a Division Street gateway project that involves single lane closures on Division and Browne Street from First to Third avenues.

The $3.5 million project includes sidewalks, utilities and pavement patching.

On Monroe Street at Riverside Avenue, one lane may be closed while a crew makes repairs to irrigation.

The final paving of Monroe and Lincoln streets from Main Avenue to Second Avenue is planned for midsummer.

Sewer retention tank projects continue to cause street closures, detours and lane restrictions, most notably the closure of Spokane Falls Boulevard at the Downtown Library.

A sewer holding tank on Adams Street will cause Sprague and First avenues to have just one westbound lane open.

Adams will also have only one lane. Westbound Riverside Avenue will be closed and detoured to Sprague at Jefferson Street. Eastbound Riverside will be closed from Cedar to Jefferson streets.

Riverfront Park reconstruction has resulted in a lane closure on Spokane Falls next to the work.

Also in the city of Spokane, the Centennial Trail is detoured around a sewer retention tank on Upriver Drive near Freya Street. Upriver Drive is closed.

Thirty-seventh Avenue is closed between Freya and Ray streets for major reconstruction and utility work.

Pavement repairs starting this month

State highways have a slew of pavement repair projects starting up this month.

Lane restrictions and flaggers will guide traffic.

They are Highway 21 from Wilbur to the Keller Ferry; Highway 28 from Harrington to Davenport; Highway 31 from Tiger to Metaline Falls; Highway 291 from Suncrest to Highway 231.

Sidewalks are being installed in Cheney and Colville.

U.S. Highway 395 is closed due to a washout at Matsen Creek. A detour is available.

Crews have started work on two main line freeway bridges crossing Freya on the North Spokane Corridor.

Additionally, curb and sidewalks are under construction on city streets along the path of the freeway south of Hillyard.

CdA area projects getting underway

The Coeur d’Alene area has a series of major projects getting underway from now until midsummer.

I-90 is being repaved from Ninth Street to Sherman Avenue and from Sherman to the Blue Creek Bay bridge.

Traffic will be diverted to one side of the freeway with one lane in each direction.

U.S. Highway 95 is getting pavement repairs from I-90 to Blackwell Slough. Most of the work will be at night.

New signs are going up from near Stateline into Shoshone County.

In addition, the city of Coeur d’Alene is revitalizing Seltice Way and adding roundabouts at Grand Mill Drive and Atlas Road.

A larger intersection is being built at Ironwood Drive and U.S. 95, and a new signal light is going in at Ironwood and Medina Road.

Government Way is being rebuilt and widened starting in mid-June from Hanley to Prairie avenues.

Appleway Trail work closes lanes

In Spokane Valley, work to build the Appleway Trail is getting underway from Pines to Evergreen roads with lane closures or restrictions through that segment.

Buckeye Avenue between McMillan Road and the city limits will be closed for a sewer and road project.

Market Street

lanes restricted

In Spokane County, construction with lane restrictions is underway on Market Street from Houston Avenue to Lincoln Road.

Monroe Street from Francis Avenue to Wall Street is getting a series of improvements.

The Ritchey Road Bridge is being replaced.



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