The construction of the north Spokane freeway isn’t occurring without some risk to public safety, which was demonstrated in a little-noticed event in the work zone last week.
As part of the freeway construction, the state is lowering the level of U.S. Highway 2 north of Farwell Road where it crosses Peone Creek. The job involves excavation to build a new arched culvert over the creek that will be wide enough to allow wildlife to move back and forth beneath the highway.
Traffic has been detoured onto temporary pavement while workers excavate and build the culvert crossing.
Last Tuesday, on-site engineers for the state Department of Transportation noticed that one of the lanes of the detour was sagging and cracked. It turned out the pavement was slumping because water had weakened the road base, said Al Gilson, spokesman for the DOT in Spokane.
Not wanting to risk a collapse, the engineers ordered the southbound detour lane closed and rerouted onto one of two northbound lanes while repairs were made.
“There is no imminent danger,” Gilson said Wednesday.
Even so, the engineers didn’t want to take chances. Much of the road base and soil is made up of sand. Workers on the culvert had struck groundwater during their digging, and had been pumping the water into infiltration ponds alongside the detour route.
Gilson said water from the ponds had migrated under the roadway and apparently caused the sand to settle. “Sand being sand, it moved a bit,” he said.
The repairs were completed by Thursday and traffic was returned to the re-opened lane.
Gilson would not speculate on what might have happened if the problem hadn’t been corrected so quickly. “It’s not a crisis,” he said.
Drivers get nailed
The recent “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed” enforcement effort in Washington state resulted in 2,818 arrests statewide for driving under the influence, including 155 arrests in Spokane County.
Law officers put an emphasis on stopping drunken and drugged drivers during the period from Aug. 14 through Labor Day with funding from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
The traffic commission said that nearly half of the 522 people killed on Washington roads in 2008 died in crashes involving an impaired driver.
There is a bit of good news. The 251 deaths involving an impaired driver last year was a decrease of 22 such deaths from the average for the previous five years, the commission said.
Sign rules changing
Spokane Valley is working on new standards for street design, construction and maintenance and wants the public’s help in writing the new rules.
A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave., in council chambers. The city planning commission will take the testimony.
The rules are a major issue for developers and construction firms, but the public is also invited to provide input on the standards, which will include elements for transit, pedestrians and bicycle use.
I-90 lane work
Interstate 90 through Spokane will have evening lane closures for construction this week. At least one lane will remain open through the construction areas.
At 8 p.m. today, workers will continue repair work on bridge joints along the eastbound lanes in the vicinity of the Hamilton Street interchange. The work should continue through 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday starting at 8 p.m. on both days, crews will be doing joint repairs on the westbound lanes crossing Latah Creek. The work will continue through 5:30 a.m.
Street closure watch
•Sprague Avenue from Helena to Crestline streets is going to be closed during daytime work hours today through Friday while crews install fire hydrants.
•Closures are continuing on Third Avenue from Freya to Havana streets, Trent Avenue from Freya to Mission Avenue and Myrtle Street from Trent to Mission. The closures are for sewer work.
•Wandermere Road from Hastings Road and U.S. 395 to Hatch Road is closed for sewer construction.