In the last installment of Where Will All the Bikes Go? we reviewed the changes that are occurring daily at US 195 and the Cheney Spokane Road. The State of Washington is constructing an interchange to make crossing and entering the highway safer with a series of on/off ramps and an overpass. This all looks fine and good for cars but what about the impact on cyclists?
Being the super sleuths that we are, we dug a little deeper to try and answer these questions. This included pulling up the site plans for the project and a lengthy discussion with the WSDOT engineer assigned to make this thing work. Chad Simonson, Project Engineer WSDOT Eastern Region was very helpful and went over the below site plans in detail and even pointed-out a recent revision. He admits the changes for cyclists are not perfect, but every effort was made to balance the needs of all users which includes vehicles and pedestrians as well as cyclists who are commuting or riding for recreation.
Below is the southern portion of the plan which depicts an off-ramp for northbound traffic, an on-ramp for southbound traffic and an overpass for both to cross over the highway. The most notable change cyclists going north is that they are now required to exit the highway and then proceed either west across the overpass or north in a two-way lane shared with pedestrians. This lane is physically separated from vehicle traffic and continues on to Inland Empire Way (IEW) rather than back on to the highway. IEW is now and will remain a dead-end for cars with no access to US 195 which why the separated lane is two-way. cars and cyclists can use Thorpe Rd as the main access to US 195 from IEW north of the interchange..
Riders wanting to access the highway from IEW south of Thorpe Rd. will continue from the dead-end and south onto the overpass. They will then have to merge into the left-hand turn lane and then onto the southbound on-ramp and on to the highway. The on-ramp will have a 16 foot shoulder shared with a sidewalk which should give cyclists and pedestrians plenty of room.
Now the bad news. Southbound cyclists already on the highway have a couple of choices. According to the engineer, the above diagram is incorrect in that southbound cyclists are not required to exit and can continue on the shoulder under the overpass. The concern with that is having to cross exiting traffic prior to the off-ramp and then cross traffic again at the southbound on-ramp south of the bridge - neither of which sound appealing during heavy traffic flow or from the standpoint that cars will be going close to 55 mph at both.
The other alternative is to exit on the off-ramp and cross over the the east side of the island at the top where cars have a lower speed limit and then proceed across the bridge and back on to the highway via the southbound on-ramp. Neither sound all that appealing, but the choices are there. The other alternative would be to cross the highway at 16th and then use IEW to get on the two-way path described above and then continue south on US 195..
Bike access to and from Cheney Spokane Road looks fairly straight-forward without too much hassle. In summary, we are all for the project given the number of accidents and tragic loss of life that have occurred at that intersection. The changes for cyclists are not perfect, but with some planning and experience seem to be workable.
The project is hopefully going to be complete in late fall and just in time for the heavy winter cycling season. Until then, the area is a very dangerous place for cyclists with the lack of a shoulder, one lane of traffic each way, cars crossing from the west and heavy equipment moving about so please try to avoid it if possible. We will check back on progress in a month or two and provide an update. Until then - safe riding.