Three members of the Spokane Valley City Council found themselves outmaneuvered by the majority on Tuesday in an attempt to keep the existing conditions at the Thierman Road and Sprague Avenue intersection the same.
Instead, four members believe that traffic will get moving westbound more quickly by allowing the northbound right lane at Thierman to turn left, as well, toward Sprague’s big box stores and Auto Row.
That decision, however, is contrary to city engineers’ recommendation to leave the current configuration alone, with the exception of installing yellow-flashing turn arrows in order to curb the number of collisions involving left-turning traffic.
Sean Messner, senior traffic engineer, said allowing left turns in the far right lane would not necessarily solve the problem of stacked northbound traffic that sometimes blocks eastbound Appleway Boulevard. He added that the possibility of sideswipe collisions – vehicles in the far left lane attempting to maneuver to the right lanes where other cars will be present – will increase.
Heather Graham, a local resident, said she agreed with adding the yellow flashing turn arrows to increase awareness of southbound traffic on Thierman but added the current configuration should be left in place because cars turning left in the inside lane would many times be forced onto the Interstate 90 onramp.
“If you put in two turn lanes and you’re in the inside turn lane, now you’re stuck,” she said.
Messner said that study would be done to lessen chances of that scenario with the creation of that type of “trap lane” at the intersection. Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard, who supported the added turn lane with the majority, said that signage would help.
Council Member Chuck Hafner was incredulous that the majority of the council would vote for a traffic change that is not recommended by trained engineers and deemed less safe.
“Doing so is a disservice to the people of this community,” he said.
Mayor Dean Grafos and Council Members Rod Higgins and Ed Pace joined Woodard in voting for the change.
Last month, the council – by the same 4-3 ratio – voted that any improvements to University Road between 16th Avenue and Dishman-Mica Road would have to incorporate its current four-lane configuration. City staff, citing safety concerns, recommended a reduction to two lanes each way with a center turn lane.