Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Status update on Palouse grade signal


November 28, 2019

Colfax mayor-elect Jim Retzer reported to the city council Nov. 18 that the city's request to return some type of alert system on the Palouse Highway grade into Colfax faces a tough test to get funding. City concern about the absence of an alert system has been heightened because three runaway accidents have been logged this year on the highway grade approach.

One of the chief concerns is the potential of a runaway car or truck coming down the grade that could hit a pedestrian or a north-south vehicle at the Main Street intersection.

Retzer, who is a trooper with the Washington State Patrol, has headed the effort to return an alert system after a meeting Nov. 4 by the city's council's public safety committee. The session was called three days after a 1990 Honda went out of control on the grade, went through the Main Street intersection and landed in the N. Palouse flood channel after crashing through the fence. The driver and passenger escaped serious injury.

Retzer reported he has been in contact with Department of Transportation district traffic safety engineer in Spokane. He noted in reviewing the problem with the DOT official, he discovered not all accidents involving the grade hazard have been logged into the DOT system. Among the accidents not in the log was the wreck involving the Palouse driver who crashed into the office building behind Columbia Bank.

Retzer said one factor in the city's favor is the fact that an alert system had been in service for the grade and was never replaced after it was removed. He also said the project could prove to be a lot less expensive if the conduit for the line which served the previous system was still in place and its installation would not have to be repeated.

Public Works Director Matt Hammer said he believes the conduit was still in place along the highway grade which descends the hill.


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