Teresa Waunch took her campaign for widening a deadly stretch of U.S. Highway 395 to state lawmakers Wednesday.
Waunch, founder of a grass-roots organization called Project 395, told the Senate Transportation Committee that more money is needed to curb the carnage that plagues the road north of Spokane to Kettle Falls, Wash.
She brought along nearly 8,700 signatures in support of spending $156 million to widen the highway from two lanes to four.
Highway 395 has the highest percentage of truck traffic of any stretch of road in the state, according to a state Department of Transportation study completed in 1995.
It also is one of the most treacherous.
Well more than 1,000 accidents have occurred on Highway 395 between Spokane and Kettle Falls since 1992. More than two dozen people have been killed.
Last month, a Spokane couple were killed when their van collided head-on with a truck.
Waunch, of Loon Lake, Wash., formed Project 395 three years ago after an accident that nearly paralyzed another Loon Lake woman.
Waunch said Project 395 has helped get $5.1 million in the past three years for emergency safety improvements to the road.
But “this is a Band-Aid approach for our highway needs,” she told the committee.
She appeared Wednesday at the request of Sen. Eugene Prince, R-Thornton, who chairs the Transportation Committee.
Prince is pushing for an increase in the state’s 23-cent gasoline tax to pay for transportation projects.
He designed Wednesday’s public hearing on his proposed transportation budget to help steer public opinion in his favor.
The hearing drew a mixed crowd representing both public and private interests that overflowed into another hearing room where the testimony could be viewed on television.
Outside the hearing room, Waunch said it may be difficult to gather support for a gas tax increase because Spokane voters remain bitter after a plan to improve Hastings Road was pulled by lawmakers three years ago.
“The public was told it was going to happen and it never happened,” Waunch said. “This only leads to apathy.”
Waunch said running her grassroots organization has worn on her, but Prince’s request revived her interest.
“Sometimes I wonder why,” she said. “I guess I just have a feeling inside that we have a serious problem.”
Prince said Waunch’s support is important.
“She’s the type who is doing it because she’s concerned about her roads,” he said. “It’s hard to get that type because there are so few who are willing to take on causes like she has.”
Rich Hadley, president and CEO of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce, also testified Wednesday, along with local business leaders Julie Prafke, Dave Clack and Dale Steadman.
The chamber has requested $104 million in transportation projects for the 1997-99 biennium. The money would help improve Interstate 90, provide alternative forms of transportation and increase maintenance and repair work.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic with map: Dangerous road
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: DEADLY YEAR There have been several fatal accidents on U.S. Highway 395 north of Spokane in the past year. Among them: Edna Fuller, 65, and her husband Darrell, 68, who died Jan. 4 after their minivan slammed into a lumber truck just south of Deer Park and then caught fire. Theresa J. Gibbs, 18, who was killed Nov. 1 in a two-car collision near Hatch Road north of town. She lost control of her Toyota Tercel in the slush and slid broadside into a flatbed truck. Glenda A. Oien, 56, who died June 7 after driving across the center line and hitting an oncoming truck north of Spokane. C.W. Miller, 60, who died after a Feb. 5, 1996, accident north of Addy, Wash. A two-door Toyota he was riding in was struck head-on by a Oldsmobile passing cars in the opposite direction.
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