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Thursday, December 5, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Getting There: Pay heed, motorists, to the South Hill stop sign

A new stop sign on Grand Avenue, at its intersection with High Drive in Spokane, has commuters confused. This car did not stop and proceeded to turn east onto High Drive, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
A new stop sign on Grand Avenue, at its intersection with High Drive in Spokane, has commuters confused. This car did not stop and proceeded to turn east onto High Drive, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Here’s a new word for some motorists on Spokane’s South Hill: Stop.

They may want to add it to their vocabulary, especially those who travel through the intersection of Grand Avenue and High Drive where, a week ago, the city installed a new stop sign for southbound traffic on Grand.

If you haven’t noticed, you’re not alone. So far, it appears that habitual driving behavior is winning over paying attention to traffic revisions, despite the thick white line that’s been painted on the pavement, and the reflectors that joined the stop sign, giving a bit more warning for commuters.

It’s hard to blame those still blazing through the intersection with nary a foot tap – hard, that is, if you think mindless driving with a smartphone in your hand is the way to go.

For the rest of us who think driving requires constant attention to detail – little things like brake lights and children playing – a new stop sign is something to see. Those bright red, octagonal signs were designed to be noticed, after all, by the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, which was agreed to by the United Nations.

So no excuses. A stop sign, like love and math, is universal.

Still, for years, the three-way intersection had only two stop signs – both on High Drive, preventing drivers on this pastoral parkway from going anywhere if Grand had traffic. Some neighbors groused about the situation.

“People have asked us for a while, ‘Why is Grand treated differently?’ ” said Marlene Feist, the city’s spokeswoman. “They want traffic calming, they want safety. There are a lot of pedestrian generators up there.”

But a stop sign wasn’t warranted until the city measured an increase of traffic on High Drive. Grand has always had more traffic than High Drive, even though both are classified as arterials. As recently as 2015, High Drive had between 4,200 and 5,300 cars on it on an average day, according to city traffic counts. In 2018, the counts jumped to between 5,500 and 6,900.

Grand’s traffic increased as well, just not as quickly. In 2015, the road had 6,600 cars on an average day. Last year, that number went up to 7,200.

What all this means is Grand and High are now equals.

“The last time we did the study, which was 16 days ago or so, they were even,” Feist said. “If we know that traffic volumes are equal in both directions, best practice is to put in a four-way stop. That’s standard traffic control.”

As with other changes on city roads, people probably aren’t going to be pleased. At least, they’ll be angry until they get used to it, then they’ll get angry if the city ever changes it again. Feist acknowledged that the new sign may not please everyone, but she urged patience.

“It depends on what direction you go whether you like it or not,” she said. “We just did this Monday. People are going to get used to it, but they just don’t know it’s there yet.”

As Feist suggested, to get used to something, you have to know it exists, and a very unscientific survey last week showed that many motorists don’t know the stop sign is there.

Either that or they’re ignoring it. For those scofflaw drivers engaging in civil roadway disobedience, it’s just a matter of time before they get a $136 ticket for their crime. Or maybe not.

“If we have a problem where people are not stopping, we’ll readjust it,” Feist said.

Hopefully any readjustments will happen before we all get used to it.

Wellesley to close for three years, starting next week

The three-year Wellesley Avenue closure between Market and Freya streets starts Friday, Nov. 22.

The work is related to construction of the North Spokane Corridor and the realignment of railroad tracks making way for the freeway.

Bridgeport, Cleveland and Fairview avenues between Ralph and Market streets have been permanently closed due to the freeway, as have Grace, Marietta and Jackson avenues between Ralph and Greene streets.

Motorists have east-west access on Upriver Drive, and Carlisle and Wellesley avenues.

For more information, visit wsdot.wa.gov/projects/us395/nsc-bnsf/home.

Lime leaving

Get your fix of wheelshare before Nov. 24, because that’s when Lime is packing up its electric scooters and bicycles for the winter.

Since Lime came to town last fall for a pilot run, 600,000 rides have been taken, totaling 700,000 miles, for reasons as varied as work, shopping, getting to transit, recreation and more.

Colin Quinn-Hurst, the city’s pedestrian and bicycle planner, said data is still to be crunched, but that a lot of trips were taken between the Garland Avenue district and downtown Spokane.

The program will return to Spokane by March 15.

In the city

Traffic continues to be affected by work on the $20 million, 2.2-million gallon sewer and stormwater tank by the downtown Spokane Public Library. On Tuesday, Spokane Falls Boulevard between Post and Monroe streets will be reduced to one lane. Lincoln Street between Main Avenue and Spokane Falls Boulevard remains closed.

Northbound Northwest Boulevard and Assembly Street between Garland and Wellesley avenues will be closed Tuesday through Saturday for construction work.

Cedar Street between First and Riverside avenues will be closed Wednesday for Avista work.

The eastbound lane of Sprague has been shifted into the median lane at its intersections with Napa and Helena, and the westbound lane will shift in the same way at a separate time through Nov. 21 for concrete work.

The southbound lane of Regal will be shifted into the median at the intersection of Regal and 46th on Monday through Nov. 25 for Avista work. Related work will close the southbound curb lane of Regal between 35th and 39th.

Avista work will also shut the curbside northbound lane of Indian Trail Road between Weile and Fleming beginning Monday through Nov. 25.

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