SPOKANE, Wash. — A Spokane City Council member is proposing a resolution that would move the city a step closer to a potential solution for an oft-complained about traffic problem on East Sprague Avenue.
Buses stopping along the corridor result in impatient drivers sitting in intersections, and sometimes even trying to go around the buses by cutting through oncoming turn lanes, posing a serious safety hazard.
"Sometimes I'll hear the engines roar, and I'll look up and I'll see them just go flying by," said Nick Taylor, who co-owns the East Sprague business Blue Cat Vintage with his wife. "I'm only concerned about the safety, and it's a very visible thing to us because we're here all day."
He's not alone. Many businesses on the avenue have expressed their concerns about driver behavior on East Sprague Ave. to the Spokane Transit Authority. Some have asked STA to move the stops or create designated pull-out lanes.
The STA board balked at those options, in part because moving the stops would create new threats to pedestrians, and because pull-out lanes would eliminate parking the businesses had previously asked for.
Instead, they voted to explore giving buses on the corridor the same technology as emergency vehicles, allowing them to change traffic lights.
This would be used by bus drivers after going through intersections, turning the light red behind them, so other drivers wouldn't be tempted to sit in the intersection or go around through turn lanes.
Because the traffic lights are city-owned, the plan requires city cooperation.
That's why Council Member Lori Kinnear has proposed a resolution, encouraging city staff to work with STA on advancing this plan. As a resolution it's non-binding, but Kinnear says she expects it would still help fast track the process.
She said the traffic-light solution makes the most sense as a first step.
"It wouldn't be as expensive [as proposed alternatives] because we already have the technology," Kinnear said.
Kinnear said she understands what some business owners are asking for, but she wants to be sure taxpayer money is spent on cost-effective, proven solutions.
"We really have to rely on data," she said. "We have to make sure that we've got very accurate data, that we're looking at facts and not so-called anecdotal evidence."
That's fine with Nick Taylor; he's just glad something is being done.
"I think that's a great place to start because it doesn't cost much," he said. "And if it works, great. Then we move on. And if it doesn't work, then go to plan B. But at least they're trying plan A. They're trying to do something. So that's encouraging."
The resolution will go before the council on Monday, although there's no timeline as to when the pilot program may actually be implemented.
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