The Washington State Department of Transportation is finalizing plans to install two roundabouts at the Interstate 90 on- and off-ramps at Barker Road in Spokane Valley.
The two intersections currently have traffic lights, but traffic often backs up during busy commute times.
“There’s certainly some congestion on the freeway out there,” said DOT project engineer Tom Brasch. “We can see congestion in the afternoon. The ramp movement backs up.”
A 2018 traffic count shows that between 13,000 and 14,000 cars use Barker Road in that area each day, Brasch said. With the traffic lights inadequate to the task of keeping traffic flowing on the two-lane road, DOT looked at options to see what would get traffic moving and settled on roundabouts.
“That’s a nice, practical solution,” he said.
The project is expected to cost around $6 million, which includes the current design phase. Some of the funding is coming from a state Connecting Washington funding package that allocated money to the Barker Road interchange improvements as well as the creation of a new Henry Road overpass in Liberty Lake. The rest of the project is being paid for with money left over from a project to improve I-90 from Sullivan Road to the state line, Brasch said.
The current plan is to start construction in mid- to late-June, but how the construction happens is still up in the air. Brasch said he looked at the recent closure of the I-90 westbound off-ramp at State Route 902 to install a roundabout for guidance.
“We shut it down for 10 days and the contractor worked all 10 days, mostly 24 hours a day,” he said. “That’s our thought process if we want to reduce how long we’re out there.”
Some work would be done both before and after the shutdown, making it a six-week project. Otherwise it would take three months, he said. “There’s options there,” he said. “You could stage it and accommodate traffic. That’s a little more difficult. There’s a lot of traffic out there.”
DOT recently held an open house to get public input on the construction project. Brasch said people seemed to like the idea of a quick, 10-day shutdown. “The group that was around me was favorable,” he said.
A decision on how to proceed will likely happen early next year after more input is collected. “The businesses, we do have to speak to them more because we have to provide access,” he said.
A lot of the traffic heading south on Barker Road from the north side of I-90 ends up getting on the freeway, so the roundabout there will include what’s called a right “slip lane” that will let cars turn to the right to westbound I-90 without going through the roundabout.
Once the roundabouts are in, concrete center traffic islands will block some turns. People going both north and south won’t be able to make a left turn onto Boone Avenue and people heading west on Boone won’t be able to make a left turn onto Barker. Brasch said some neighbors who live near the intersection were initially upset about that.
“They recognized that with the intersection like it is now they can’t get out anyway,” he said. “We took a safer approach and cut that movement out.”
A similar situation will exist on the south side of I-90, with traffic southbound on Barker Road unable to make a left turn onto Broadway Avenue. Traffic heading west on Broadway will also be unable to make a left onto Barker Road.
Though DOT is heading up the project it is doing so in partnership with the city of Spokane Valley, Brasch said. “Barker corridor is their corridor,” he said.
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