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

City agrees to move driving speed feedback sign on Maple Street amid outcry from West Central neighborhood

West Central neighborhood chair Kelly Cruz, far right explains the plan for a new speed feedback sign on the median just north of the Maple Street Bridge to street department representatives Gary Kaesemeyer, far left and Clint Harris, rear center along with Katherine Miller of the city of Spokane on Friday, August 31, 2018. The neighborhood had complained for months that the current location of the sign, nearer Broadway Avenue, was not effective in slowing speeders across the bridge, which has a 40 mph limit that becomes 30 mph when you leave the span. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

City officials have shifted gears and will move a speed indicator sign on the north side of the Maple Street Bridge that had prompted concerns from the nearby West Central Neighborhood.

The sign, installed in August 2017, has been tracking speeders coming off the former state toll road from a location near the corner of Gardner Avenue and Maple Street. As motorists leave the span, they’re supposed to slow from 40 mph down to 30 mph, a reduction in speed most drivers didn’t follow. That prompted the neighborhood, in 2015, to request money from fines collected from red-light-runners throughout the city to pay for a blinking, automated sign urging motorists to slow down.

But when the city built the sign, it was two blocks farther north than where the neighborhood wanted it near a stoplight on Boone Avenue, diminishing its effect, said Kelly Cruz, chairman of the West Central Neighborhood association.

“A lot of times, it doesn’t even come on,” said Cruz. “Or it just says, ‘Slow down.’”

The area of Maple just north of Broadway can be a nightmare for motorists trying to merge left off of residential cross streets such as Dean Avenue, Cruz said. The city’s most recent traffic counts show that about 23,000 cars cross the bridge heading north each day.

City Councilwoman Karen Stratton, who’s been critical of the Public Works division’s spending and resigned from a council committee earlier this summer tasked with overseeing public construction projects, got involved, requesting that the city honor its plans to put the sign in the grass median just to the north of the bridge. That’s the location the City Council approved when it signed off on installation of the permanent speed sign.

“What was lacking here was notification that that sign was not going to be placed where everybody decided it was going to be placed,” Stratton said. “Had that been a discussion point early on, it would have been an easier solution.”

Marlene Feist, acting director of communications and marketing for the city, said the confusion was based upon conflicting recommendations from two city engineers. Crews will work in the coming weeks to move the sign to the neighborhood’s desired location, with the city picking up the bill for the shift, rather than the neighborhood council.

“One engineer worked on the placement. A different engineer worked on the design,” Feist said. “The second location wasn’t ever adequately communicated to the neighborhood.”

Stratton and Cruz said it seemed as though the voiced concerns had fallen on deaf ears at City Hall until recently, when Stratton sent an email to the heads of several departments and Cruz reached out the media about his concerns. The city said it would work to move the sign Tuesday, a few days after Cruz was interviewed about the sign and after questions were posed to the city about the location.

“This shouldn’t have taken three and a half months,” Cruz said.

The city worked quickly after receiving Stratton’s email at the end of July to work on a solution, Feist said.

“I think we tried to move as quicly as we could,” Feist said. “We try to be as responsive as we can.”

The sign will be moved as the city shifts from its summer enforcement of speed zones away from municipal parks and back to area schools. Two new traffic cameras are scheduled to come online near Willard and Ridgeview elementaries this fall in an effort to continue to slow speeders in zones surrouding area schools.

“The kids going back to school, so we ask drivers to watch for the 20 mile hour speed zones now that they haven’t been blinking most of the summer,” Feist said.

Moving the sign on Maple Street is expected to cost a couple thousand dollars in labor time for city workers, Feist said. It should be moved in the next couple weeks.