The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Starting to Improve Safety on Killer Highway 2

$14M a "start in right direction" for Snohomish County roads

By Christina Siderius


The Legislature appropriated $14 million for improvements for Highway 2, commonly referred to as the "Highway of Death."

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Fred Walser, US 2 Safety Coalition chairman, stands along a section of Highway 2 at Fern Bluff Road where four fatal crashes occurred in a six-month period.

Over the years, white crosses have been planted again and again alongside Highway 2 to mark where loved ones were hit and killed in car crashes on the narrow, winding road.

The stretch of Highway 2 from Interstate 5 in Everett to Stevens Pass — particularly the portion east of Snohomish — was nicknamed the "Highway of Death" due to its high number of fatal collisions. Those deaths have prompted outcries by citizens and lawmakers to make the stretch safer.

The state Legislature this session approved $5 million more than what was initially budgeted to improve the stretch — bringing the total allotted for the highway to $14 million. Lawmakers also agreed to add six more state troopers to patrol the highway.

Fred Walser, chairman of the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition and former Sultan police chief, said trying to get the dangers of the highway addressed has been like banging on a wall.

"We think we finally made a hole in the wall," he said.

The funds budgeted for Highway 2 are only a drop in the bucket compared with the state Department of Transportation (DOT) estimate that the stretch needs nearly $2 billion in improvements.

"Clearly, it's not enough," Walser said. "But it's better than nothing, and it's a great start in the right direction."

Meghan Soptich, a DOT spokeswoman, said $4 million will go toward installing 47 miles' worth of median rumble strips from Monroe to Stevens Pass.

Those rumble strips will be an attempt to address the high number of crossover crashes that occur along this part of the highway, by alerting drivers when they begin to cross the centerline.

This project — funded by state, federal and county money — will begin in the next few months, she said.

The other $10 million will be phased in over the next few years to fund projects as decided by DOT, with input from the community.

Walser said a crucial area to address is near Fern Bluff Road, where four fatal crashes occurred in a six-month period. Other much-needed improvements are installing turn lanes and widening shoulders near a dairy farm west of Monroe, upgrading turn lanes along 17th Street in Gold Bar, and installing a westbound passing lane in Sultan, he said.

"They are short-term fixes but nevertheless, hopefully they will help contribute to saving a life," Walser said.

The coalition will seek public views at an open meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Monroe Public Library.

Rep. Liz Loomis, D-Snohomish, said the "most important thing to point out is that the local community will determine which project they want to do."

Ultimately, the highway needs to be widened to four lanes, but that multibillion-dollar fix is "way beyond the scope of the state," she said.

For now, the goal is to make sure fatalities don't occur, she said. In less than a decade, 47 people have been killed in crashes on the highway's dangerous stretch.

Patrol Sgt. Kirk Rudeen said the presence of six more troopers will also have "a huge impact" on the highway.

Currently, there are 16 troopers spread across east Snohomish County who "don't have the luxury of focusing all their attention on Highway 2."

Rudeen said the extra patrols will help reduce speeds and the number of impaired drivers, which will help cut back on collisions.

Also included in the state transportation budget was about $27 million for concrete-median barriers along Interstate 5 from Marysville to Smokey Point, to keep drivers from crossing from one side of the freeway to the other. That stretch of freeway also has seen fatal collisions

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