Cheney-Spokane/U.S. 195 interchange officially opens
Overpass to reduce accidents at deadly intersection
The new Cheney-Spokane/U.S. 195 interchange officially opened last Friday, thanks in part to the efforts of friends and family of a 16-year-old Cheney High School student who lost her life in a 2009 collision at the old at-grade intersection.
It may only be three-fourths complete, but the new interchange at Cheney-Spokane Road and U.S. 195 became officially open at ceremonies last Friday morning.
The former at-grade interchange was one of the most dangerous in the region, the site of 27 collisions between 2005 and 2008, resulting in 13 injuries that included the fatal collision that took the life of 16-year-old Cheney High School student Lorissa Green in January 2009. Debbie Hammel, Green's mother and major role player in getting the interchange built, spoke at Friday's opening, calling it a "huge day."
"For me, this is closure for our families and a lot of our friends," Hammel said.
Hammel energetically lobbied area legislators to enact changes at the intersection, getting some money early on in 2009 to turn an old, unused portion of Cheney-Spokane into a southbound off ramp. Sixth District Sen. Mike Baumgartner told those gathered for the opening of being confronted by Hammel just one week on the job in Olympia in 2010 about the need for changes at Cheney-Spokane and 195.
"We don't always get to see the outcome of the money we spend in Olympia," Baumgartner said of the opening.
Sixth District Rep. Kevin Parker recounted the sometimes-emotional town hall meetings he attended at Hammel's business, Giggling Guests, at Latah Creek following Green's death. Parker reminded those assembled of the buttons created in Green's memory to help with the interchange campaign, one of which he said he keeps on his desk in Olympia and one he keeps on his desk at home to remind him of the importance of representing the public interests.
The new $11 million project eliminates turning and crossing traffic at the interchange by channeling traffic from Cheney-Spokane up onto an overpass where a left hand turn takes them down an on ramp to merge safely with northbound traffic. Southbound traffic exits a new off ramp that merges seamlessly onto Cheney-Spokane while traffic exiting on the northbound ramp make a left hand turn that takes them back over 195 to Cheney-Spokane.
A southbound on ramp to 195 is accessed by a right hand turn at the top of the overpass, and is still being finished by contractor Selland Construction. According to a Washington State Department of Transportation news release, approximately 19,000 drivers travel 195 daily, with 7,000 vehicles accessing Cheney-Spokane Road.
Drivers traveling south on 195 must use Qualchan Road until the new southbound on ramp is completed.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.