Solution on the Horizon for Crashes at Casino Intersection

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One Lewiston area notorious for crashes could have a potential solution by the end of summer.

For years now the intersection of Highway 95 and Nez Perce Road has been a sore spot among officials, police, and drivers.

ISP Cpl. David Wesche says at a crash in early January, "This intersection in particular, yeah, we respond to a lot of crashes here," while one woman involved in an earlier crash says, "Just amazing that we've got so many drivers out there who are not observing more when they're driving."

While a recently uncovered data logging error prevents officials with the Idaho Transportation Department from ranking the intersection among other dangerous areas in District 2, you wouldn't need data to know that this is a problem area.

Back in 2006 a KLEW News report labeled the intersection "crash-prone." Follow that up with more reports from 2008, 2010 - all crashes at the same spot.

And a closer look reveals a common thread, says ITD traffic engineer Jared Hopkins. "The crash rate was almost three times higher on the west intersection for left turns coming out. Like 88% of the crashes were someone turning left and not yielding to Highway 95."

New numbers released by ITD show that in the last 14 years, 22 crashes happened in that exact scenario. Even with a relatively low fatality rate of five deaths in that time frame, it's prompted ITD and the Nez Perce Tribe to take action.

"What it's going to do is put a concrete island in there so that you will only be able to go right coming out of the intersection. If you want to go left, you'll have to go to the east intersection," Hopkins says of their upcoming joint project.

The project is expected to last about two weeks, with Morgan Industries kicking off construction in late spring or early summer. It's supposed to be a relatively simple and inexpensive solution.

"Twenty-five thousand dollar project. The Nez Perce Tribe is paying all the construction costs and we're helping out with design and inspection," Hopkins explains.

However, he's quick to call this an "interim fix." Talks between ITD and the Nez Perce Tribe about how to improve the west casino intersection have been going on since at least 2006. The talks are on-going.

Hopkins says the transportation department is continuing to work with the tribe on an interchange project. "That's the ultimate fix," he says.

There's no word on when that interchange project could happen, as Hopkins says they're waiting to see what effect preventing left turns will have on crash rates.

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