Officials break ground on life-saving road construction project

SPOKANE, Wash. - The official groundbreaking of a life saving road construction project took place Thursday morning at the site along Highway 195 where a 16-year-old girl was killed four years ago.

The new overpass on Highway 195 west of Spokane will reroute traffic from having to cross highway lanes that carry tens of thousands of vehicles everyday. Lorissa Green was killed there four years ago and her mother, Debi Hammel, was instrumental in getting the overpass built.

In the past five years, there have been 36 crashes at the intersection of Cheney-Spokane Road and Highway 195, including the one in which Green was killed. The pain of that loss prompted Debi Hammel to fight to get an overpass built

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Hammel doubted this day would ever come; the day they broke ground on the overpass she fought so hard to get built.

"I thought it was a long shot in the dark to be honest with you," she said.

Hammel's been fighting since her daughter Lorissa was killed when she pulled out in front of a car on Highway 195.  Dave Blyton was the other driver and fought alongside Hammel for changes.

"We went to Olympia, we lobbied [the] legislature [to] try to get something done, now it's coming together, somehow, probably with the grace of God we got it done," Blyton said.

An emotional Hammel said other crash victims, like Thomas Grieb and his wife Kathleen, helped push for the project. Grieb was severely injured in a crash at the intersection six years ago.

"I think it's about time," Grieb said.

The new overpass will keep cars from crossing lanes that now carry 20,000 cars a day. The state wants to build two more overpasses to the south, one at Hatch Road and one at Meadowlane Road which leads to Qualchan Golf Course.

So far only the Cheney-Spokane Road project has been funded.

"I think she had something to do with it, there's a higher power up there and she had something to do with it," Hammel said.

All the victims of this intersection are thankful changes are being made.

"If we've saved somebody else from going through what we've gone through, it's worth it," he said.

Construction is already underway and the project is scheduled to be completed by this fall.