Traffic issues on U.S. Highway 195 south of where it intersects with Interstate 90 have been a topic of discussion for years, and about a hundred people turned out Monday night to continue that discussion at a public workshop at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Meadowlane Road.
The traffic corridor various agencies are examining for improvements stretches from I-90 south to Hatch Road, said Kendra Breiland of consultant Fehr & Peers. It also includes the neighborhood streets that connect, or don’t connect in most cases, to Highway 195. “These are all intended to work as a network to provide mobility,” she said.
The area served by the corridor is growing and more development is coming, creating more traffic on a highway that also serves as an important freight corridor. “It’s putting a lot of strain on our region,” she said. “We know that growth will continue.”
Several problems have been identified, including the disconnected road network, limited crossings over Latah Creek and the topography of the area, Breiland said. The goal is to improve safety, maintain mobility, accommodate transportation needs and increase walking, biking and transit options. Whatever solutions are proposed will ideally be ones that could be funded in the next few years, she said.
Those attending the open house were asked to indicate which areas they thought should be focused on first, and if they had any ideas for improvements. They overwhelmingly indicated that safety improvements were their top priority. They also had suggestions for adding bus service to the area, including adding a Park and Ride lot at Latah Plaza.
Richard Raymond was a man on a mission. He came with several printed pages with proposals and ideas, but he’s not your average resident. He was the head of the city of Spokane’s capital project department before he retired in 2005, and once sat on a committee with the Department of Transportation tasked with coming up with solutions for traffic on the Highway 195 corridor.
“One of the solutions I worked on at the city is a Hatch Road improvement project,” he said. “We called it a Hatch bypass. It was part of the city’s federal agenda in 2004. When I retired, that whole project was not pursued, much to my dismay.”
Raymond said he’s lived in the Hangman area for 45 years, and traffic issues have continued to grow. There are several problems that need to be addressed, he said. “Definitely the merge onto I-90 eastbound,” he said. “The Hatch Road interchange is a mess. The middle is dangerous. It can be crazy.”
Many residents who attended the meeting exchanged horror stories about trying to get on eastbound I-90, or trying to turn left at intersections on the busy highway. Patricia Fountain, who lives off 16th Avenue, had a few stories to share about getting in and out of her isolated neighborhood.
“The only way out is 16th,” she said. “We’re a little dead-end area back there. We have to get on 195 and it’s trying, to say the least.”
Anyone trying to cross the highway or turn left often has to linger in the center median, which is limited to one car trying to cross at a time. But there are also turn lanes for north and southbound traffic, and drivers who want to turn left onto 16th. “You can end up with four to six cars in the intersection, and you can’t see what’s coming at you,” she said. “You’ve got traffic coming up pretty fast.”
It’s so bad that Fountain said she either she limits her trips away from home or plans them for low traffic times. But that’s not an option for her neighbors who commute. “I’m one of the lucky ones who are retired and can do that,” she said.
Last year, one of her neighbors got into a car crash when he was trying to merge onto eastbound I-90. The on-ramp there is very short, and the merge point is on a bridge over a deep gorge. “He ended up with his car on the railing, looking down,” she said. “Luckily, he didn’t go over.”
She was at the meeting to listen, and said she didn’t have any specific suggestions to make. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know what the solution is,” she said.
People who want to provide input on the corridor can visit us195transportationstudy.com. More public meetings are planned, and when specific improvement proposals are created, they will be posted there.
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