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State approves funds to upgrade 49 rail crossings in Spokane and Whitman counties

State approves funds to upgrade 49 rail crossings in Spokane and Whitman counties

State regulators approved funding for safety upgrades at 49 railroad crossings in Spokane and Whitman counties on Tuesday.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved a Grade Crossing Protective Fund (GCPF) grant at the request of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). WSDOT owns the railroad line and contracts with Washington & Idaho Railway (WIR), which operates over the tracks.

WSDOT will receive $12,250 to replace cross bucks and cross-buck posts, install or replace yield and stop signs, replace multiple track signs, and install reflective tape at the public crossings.

Two Spokane County bridges to receive replacement funding from WSDOT

Two Spokane County bridges to receive replacement funding from WSDOT

This week, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) selected 32 city and county projects that will replace, remove, or repair structurally deficient bridges. These projects are in line to receive more than $70 million in federal highway funds. 

Two Spokane County bridges made the list: The Ritchey Road Bridge over Deep Creek will receive $1,490,321, and the Monroe Road Bridge is set to receive $1,200,837. These funds will go toward the replacement of each bridge.

According to WSDOT, these investments will improve and preserve critical, locally owned transportation infrastructure.

“Approximately half of these bridges are beyond the point of repair and need to be replaced,” said Kathleen Davis, WSDOT Local Programs director. “And by repairing and preserving the other half, we are adding many years of operation to their lifespans.”

TRAFFIC ALERT: Vantage Bridge on I-90 closed

TRAFFIC ALERT: Vantage Bridge on I-90 closed

A multi-vehicle accident involving an estimated 15 semitrucks and 6 cars has prompted Washington State Department of Transportation to close part of Interstate 90 in central Washington.

I-90 westbound is closed at milepost 136 near the Vantage Bridge over the Columbia river, and eastbound at milepost 115 near Kittitas.

Drivers are being detoured onto local roads. There is no estimate for a reopening time. 

The collision occured just after 11 am eastbound near milepost 127.

Escalating crisis in Iraq driving gas prices higher

Escalating crisis in Iraq driving gas prices higher

The tensions in Iraq could soon be hitting your wallet at the gas pump as experts predict gas prices could hit $4 a gallon and possibly more if the situation doesn't deescalate.

A stay-cation might be a wise option this summer as gas prices are starting to rise.

"This time of year you starting to get into driving season, vacation season and those kinds of things and I think notoriously prices start rising up," Jim Redmon, president of Divine Corporation said.

Washington state has the 4th highest average for a gallon of regular unleaded at $3.94 a gallon. In Spokane the average is 20 cents lower at $3.74.

"It's unfortunate that it gets to be that high but you gotta do what you gotta do, you got to get from A to B, I'm going to pay to what ever it goes to because I gotta get around," Kenneth Lower said.

"It's pretty sad, pretty ridiculous, it's already hard enough to pay this much money, especially if you have to drive a lot," Teresa Hankins said.

The fact is, rising violence in Iraq could lead to rising prices at the gas pump.

Troopers crack down on distracted drivers

Troopers crack down on distracted drivers

Click it or Ticket ran from May 19 to June 1 and netted nearly almost 600 citations between Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties.

A statewide campaign since 2002, the focus has shifted from seatbelts to other issues with drivers behind the wheel.

"We focus on the distracted driving violations. texting, talking on your cell phone," said Trooper Greg Birkeland of the Washington State Patrol.

Why is it important? Birkeland says it's important for drivers to remember they are behind the wheel of what he calls a 2,000 pound killing machine.

"If you are not in complete control things happen in a split second," he said.

Since the campaign started, seat belt use in Washington has gone from 82-percent to 97-percent, one of the highest in the country. During the two-week campaign an additional 370 extra patrol hours are put in on a round-the-clock basis.

"We have certain areas that we target, and typically they are the congested areas," Birkeland said, adding that seat belt and texting violations can be some of the most difficult to spot.

Washington conducting impaired driving survey this weekend

Washington conducting impaired driving survey this weekend

Washington state and the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission are teaming up to conduct surveys on impaired drivers through the weekend.

The survey is completely anonymous and voluntary and the goal is to gain perspective on what is in Washington driver's systems and find out what the state needs to educate the public on.

"When you're driving down the road do you ever wonder how many impaired drivers are around you? Well we do to," Karen Wigen, Spokane County Target Zero Task Force, said.

The anonymous, voluntary survey be conducted on the roadside across the state.

"This is the first time that we've ever done a driver impairment data collection study in Washington state," Wigen said.

The NHTSC paid the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation $250,000 to conduct the survey in six counties. Because of the legalization of marijuana the surveys will give a snapshot of motorists' drug and alcohol use before pot stores open in the coming months.

"PIRE is going to run the study on I think it will be 75 drugs, illegal, legal and over the counter," Wigen said.

WSDOT opens new Cheney-Spokane Road overpass after deadly crash

WSDOT opens new Cheney-Spokane Road overpass after deadly crash

It was more than five years ago that a young woman's death sparked change in the Spokane community. Now, that change is keeping drivers safer. It comes in the form of a new overpass for the Cheney Spokane Road on US 195.

Lorissa Green was driving northbound on 195 and took a left toward the Cheney Spokane Road, when she was hit and killed in January 2009. She was 16.

Her memory now lives in an overpass over 195 that makes it safer for drivers to cross the busy highway.

"I know that there will be no more accidents here. I know that people will be safe," said Lorissa's mother Debi Hammel.

Lorissa's mother Debi Hammel spent countless hours writing lawmakers hoping that change would be made. Five years later that change is nearly complete.

"That's a big job," Hammel said pointing at the overpass. "To see it finally come to an end and be closed was really nice."

"It makes me feel safer because I don't have to go through the same thing. I don't have to go through that intersection every day," Lorissa's brother Shane Hammel said.