Local Information

Spokane’s first ramp meter goes live on US 195, April 9

Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 07:54

Beth Bousley, communications, 509-324-6015 or 509-990-1504
Ryan Overton, communications, 509-324-6014 or 509-413-9791

Better traffic flow, less congestion during peak commute hours

SPOKANE – With the debut of Spokane’s first ramp metering system on April 9, weekday commuters will travel more smoothly as they merge onto eastbound Interstate 90 from northbound US 195. Traffic engineers from the Washington State Department of Transportation will be turning on the US 195 ramp meter for public use at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Ramp meters are stop-and-go traffic signals that control the frequency with which vehicles enter the flow of traffic on the freeway. 

“We’re eager to bring ramp meters to the Spokane region as a proven cost-effective solution to improve traffic flow and lessen congestion,” shared Regional Administrator Mike Gribner. “Studies show ramp meters can reduce collisions by up to 30 percent.”

Currently, as drivers merge onto I-90 a free flow of vehicles can back up traffic not only on I-90, but also on US 195. Ramp metering will regulate the volume of vehicles that enter the interstate, which is less disruptive and reduces collisions more than when multiple vehicles merge from the US 195 on-ramp at the same time.

During the weekday commute, hours of ramp metering will begin at 6:30 a.m. and continue through 9 a.m. In the afternoon, ramp metering will start at 2 p.m. and last until 6 p.m. Drivers will use the ramp meter light just like a standard traffic light. During metered operations, drivers will form two lanes at the ramp meter, stop at the red light and proceed at their lane’s green light. Only one car is allowed per green light.

Because approximately 45 percent of drivers traveling this segment of eastbound US 195 exit at the I-90 Walnut/Maple Street exit, WSDOT looked at the travel times along three commonly traveled routes from US 195 to an end location of 3rd and Walnut. Engineers found that trip time along two alternate routes – via 16th Avenue to Sunset Boulevard, and via Inland Empire Way - is about five minutes, while trip time along US 195 to 3rd and Walnut via the Walnut/Maple Street exit is about four minutes. The ramp meter is estimated to increase the US 195 trip to seven minutes during the highest traffic volume times.

These ramp meters are one of the safety and operational improvement strategies recommended in the Four Lakes to Idaho Operational Study that showed that crashes have steadily increased over the past five years and are occurring on almost a daily basis.  Ramp spacing, weather, and poor driving behavior contribute to the majority of the crashes. In addition, volumes increased by about 10 percent between 2012 and 2015. The increasing congestion and crashes led to the decision to implement ramp meters throughout downtown Spokane. WSDOT will install an additional five ramp meters during the 2020 construction season.

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