Transportation Committee hears bill to improve deadly Spokane intersection
Community members travel to Olympia to support measure
A measure to increase safety at the intersection of Spokane Cheney Road and Highway 195 was heard in the House Transportation Committee today.
Sixth District Reps. John Driscoll and Kevin Parker are advocating for funding to create a safer intersection in response to the community’s call for action after 16-year-old Lorissa Green was killed while crossing highway traffic from Spokane Cheney Road about two months ago.
House Bill 2225 would require the Department of Transportation to construct a new right-turn lane for cars turning right from the highway onto Spokane Cheney Road, allowing more visibility for vehicles turning left onto the highway. Since 2004, 25 collisions have occurred at the intersection as a result of opposing traffic.
Green’s mother, Debi Hammel, testified in favor of the proposal before the committee. She told committee members her worst nightmare came true when she got the call her daughter had been in a collision. Hammel recalled having several discussions with her daughter about the intersection and making sure to come to a full stop before moving into oncoming traffic. She begged committee members to move the bill forward for the survivors of other collisions who must still use the intersection.
Two others testified in favor of the measure. Thomas Grieb survived a collision at the intersection on his motorcycle. He described the permanent physical disabilities he lives with and his inability to work or enjoy many of the activities he did before the collision.
The second man to testify was David Blyton, the driver of the car that collided with Green’s car. He told the committee that the sights and sounds from the collision stay with him. He emphasized the problem at the intersection is the right-turn lane that the legislation would address.
In addition, more than 40 members of the neighborhoods surrounding the intersection traveled from Spokane to support the legislation they call “Lorissa’s Bill.” Hammel and neighbors collected 4,000 signature to petition the Legislature to fund the project.
“For the transportation committee, safety is priority number one and this intersection is clearly too dangerous,” said prime-sponsor Driscoll, D-Spokane. “I wish Lorissa’s tragedy could have been prevented, but I’ll be working to improve this intersection and avoid future deadly accidents.”
Driscoll and Parker attended a community meeting Feb. 10 at Hammel’s day care to discuss possible solutions to make the intersection safer.
“We have heard the concern and frustration of our community, and we’re proud that Debi had the courage to join us in this call to action,” said Parker, R-Spokane. “Something needs to be done now to improve the safety at this intersection before someone else loses their life. Much of our growth in Spokane County is in this area and dangerous conditions of this intersection must be addressed. This legislation can transform the tragedy of Lorissa’s death into a real solution for our growing neighborhoods.”
The Department of Transportation has a preliminary design for a partial interchange on Highway 195 from Hatch Road to I-90. Construction for that phase of a larger project is estimated to cost $14 million. The interchange that would be built if the legislation becomes law would be a less extensive project, costing less than $250,000.
The legislators say their next step is to obtain funding for the project in the transportation budget being worked on through session.
Debi Hammel testifies to the House Transportation Committee with David Blyton looking on, March 16, 2009.
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###Washington State House Republican Communications