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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


195: A four-lane plea

I think we’ve all heard of frequent fatalities occurring on U S Highway 195, which is better known around here as the Pullman Highway.  There are serious mishaps on just about every bit of that 95-mile stretch of mainly two-lane roadway on a regular basis.  The most grave of those mishaps are centerline crossings, which too-often result in death to those involved.

The infamous highway 195 runs from Spokane to Lewiston, with most of its presence located in Washington state.  U S Highway 95 is an equally perilous highway paralleling 195 just to the east in Idaho, but that’s a separate issue.

In both cases, those busy roads are predominately two-lane varieties, where drivers often stray over the center line or make passes at ill-advised moments, with tragic outcomes.

Both highways are in dire need of safety improvements, but I am reporting on Highway 195’s shortcomings since I regularly travel that route.  Besides that, I have been told by a Washington Department of Transportation representative that engineering plans, along with property purchases and easements, have been completed for making the Spokane to Pullman portion of 195 a four-lane roadway.

In other words, the entire roadway from Spokane to Pullman would be just like the northerly section from Spokane to Spangle and the slope just south of Rosalia.

I know that such drastic road improvements depend largely upon traffic count, and I suspect 195’s daily traffic count may not meet those guidelines.  However, with a major state university in Pullman, the traffic is regularly dense on football game days, graduation, parents’ weekends and during student holiday travel.  And in fact, I’ve noticed quite an increase in traffic encountered on random “regular” days lately.

Last week, on a round trip to Pullman, I also saw quite a variety of traffic types — not only cars, SUVs and pickups, but semi-trucks, furniture trucks, plumbing trucks, and other commercial traffic.  At any given time, I could see an average of 15-20 vehicles within my range of vision both fore and aft — not extremely crowded, but crowded enough, with vehicles going varying speeds, to notice both erratic passing and forays over the center line by oncoming traffic.

At times I saw “parades” of automobiles in strings of over 15, with nearly 200 oncoming vehicles observed between Colfax and Pullman alone.  To me, the safety record of this highway, combined with being normally quite busy and at times “packed” with traffic, warrants acting upon the well-laid plans of effecting full four-lane construction.

Of course, a 195 rebuild will take money.  But isn’t it time for a major eastern Washington road project (besides the slow-to-evolve North-South Corridor) to help offset huge highway spending on the other side of the state?  The Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement’s “deep-bore” tunnel alone is expected to cost $4.25 billion, an amount that will likely escalate judging by the number of delays and lawsuits so far.

I have heard that the 195 Highway plan involves a bypass of Colfax, which I suppose plays a role in delaying the potential project, since that city is a county seat with some lobbying clout.  Nevertheless, lost revenue from ticketing Colfax speed offenders aside, I think a 195 redo is overdue for the public safety.

The DOT has asked for public input on improving safety on Highway 195.  I have just one suggestion:  Make it four lanes.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at