45 mph signs may return
9/12/2012 11:00:29 AM
By Josh Johnson
Drivers may soon pick up the pace - legally - along a one-mile stretch of Country Vista Drive often criticized for having an unreasonably low speed limit.
Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus said he expects the City Council will approve an ordinance at Tuesday's meeting that would increase the speed to 45 mph on Country Vista between Henry Road and the Spokane Valley city limits. The stretch of road has four lanes for travel and a center turn lane.
Asmus credits the public safety committee - Council members Dan Dunne, Cris Kaminskas and Lori Olander - with recommending the city change gears regarding the largely vacant stretch of road that takes drivers from Country Vista Apartments to just beyond the thoroughfare's intersection with Broadway. The committee was scheduled to put the finishing touches on the proposed ordinance earlier this week, and Asmus said when the change was bounced by Council members earlier this summer, it "seemed like it had full support."
The speed on the popular gateway into Greenacres and the connecting Valley was 45 mph until a previous City Council downshifted it to 35 mph on June 17, 2008, with the passage of Ordinance No. 169. Until the change, the speed on Country Vista was 45 mph beginning at Whitman Lane, which serves as the easternmost access to Home Depot. Asmus recalled his recommendation was to change the speed to 35 mph between Whitman and Henry, but it was decided the 35 mph zone would extend all the way to the city border instead. Leaders at the time cited an anticipation of future development and continuity of the speed limit as reasons to change the speed along the entire stretch. Ordinance 169 passed unanimously. The only current Council member who cast a vote is now-Mayor Pro Tem Odin Langford. Langford is the Council's senior member by more than two years; he was first appointed to his seat in October 2007.
Should the Council approve the change, it would likely go into effect within three to five days, Asmus said.
Asmus called the stretch of road slated for change a "big stretch of nothingness," with no potential distractions caused by cross traffic.
"Even the freeway off-ramp has its own merge lane (onto Country Vista)," he said.
Asmus said while there is no development on the horizon for the area, the city could always lower the speed limit in the future as safety concerns warrant it. For the time being, he warns drivers to be sure to slow down once they reach the 35 mph signs in the city of Spokane Valley - one reason the city cited in 2008 for the change to 35 mph.
Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson pointed out that he wasn't in office at the time, but he doesn't think the change of speeds into Spokane Valley should factor into the decision.
"If you get a ticket in Spokane Valley, you get one," he said. "We look at what is realistic for (the one-mile stretch) - what does the chief say is realistic."
For his part, Asmus agrees "35 feels slow." While letters to The Splash editor and other public comments have alleged the change was made as a speed trap to bring revenue to the city, both Peterson (who said the city can effectively lose money on such tickets because most of the fine goes to the state, and the city must pay court costs when a ticket is challenged) and Asmus brushed away the notion.
"We haven't been enforcing it really much at all," he said.