Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 67° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

I-90 morning commute time takes hit, analysis says

Traffic congestion during the morning commute on Interstate 90 has worsened in the past few years, but problems with slowdowns and delays are relatively minor compared to West Side freeways, state transportation planners said in a new traffic congestion analysis.

I-90 is plagued with westbound backups in the vicinity of Fancher Road from about 7:30 to 8 a.m., and those backups have gotten worse from 2011 to 2013, the state said.

This comes as no surprise to regular commuters heading from Spokane Valley toward Spokane just before 8 a.m. The backup occurs almost every day.

According to the report, “Congestion occurred routinely along the I-90 westbound morning commute near Custer and Fancher roads. These congested segments extended for about half a mile and lasted for 15 minutes.”

“During the eastbound evening commute along I-90 near Freya Street, congestion extended for about a half-mile and lasted for 25 minutes.”

The study showed that evening backups have not worsened from 2011 to 2013.

Because the backups are so predictable, many drivers have responded by commuting a little earlier or a little later to avoid them, said Al Gilson, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation in the Spokane region.

He said commuters “have spread out their departures because they know how bad it is.”

The conclusions were drawn from the 2014 WSDOT Corridor Capacity Report, which compares 2013 traffic loads and patterns with those in 2011. The study is helping planners come up with ways to make heavily traveled corridors across the state more efficient.

According to the study, annual miles traveled across the I-90 corridor from Division Street to Argonne Road increased 13 percent from 2011 to 2013.

Vehicle delay increased 24 percent in that time.

For everyone using the freeway from Division to Argonne, the annual loss of time due to backups increased 9.8 percent from 19.8 minutes in 2011 to 20.14 minutes in 2013.

That compares with an average of eight minutes of delay on all Spokane-area highways both in 2011 and 2013.

“When you look at other regions, I would say it’s not as bad,” Sreenath Gangula, WSDOT lead systems analyst, said of the Spokane backup problems.

In the Puget Sound area, the per-person average annual time loss from traffic congestion was more than eight hours.

With budget constraints facing state and local transportation, highway planners are turning to analysis to find ways to make the existing system more efficient, Gangula said.

“We cannot get out of this condition by building more freeways,” he said.

One of the ways to ease congestion is to get more people to ride transit.

Spokane Transit Authority earlier this month opened about 40 new parking spaces at the Liberty Lake park and ride lot because its existing 165 spaces were filling up every morning.

The new slots were made available through a lease from Spokane Valley, said Karl Otterstrom, STA planning director.

Park and ride lots at Mirabeau Point and at the Valley Transit Center are well-used, but are not at capacity yet, the state study showed.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.