All those flashing red and blue lights, stern state troopers and miserable drivers stopped along the Highway 2 shoulder in rural Snohomish...
All those flashing red and blue lights, stern state troopers and miserable drivers stopped along the Highway 2 shoulder in rural Snohomish County weren’t simply a symbolic display for visiting VIPs and the media.
Six additional troopers now assigned to the so-called “Highway of Death” began their new duties just in time for Tuesday’s gathering at Sultan Riverside Park.
The event’s official purpose? The unveiling of new black and yellow “Drive Safe” signs, depicting Highway 2’s status as a traffic-safety corridor. Gov. Christine Gregoire in October announced the highway’s addition to the corridor program, which is credited with reducing fatal and disabling traffic accidents by 34 percent in the state.
The underlying goal was twofold. The ceremony provided a chance for state leaders to summarize the Legislature’s recent $14 million in budget allocations for Highway 2 safety, while giving the public a dramatic heads-up about the State Patrol’s new crackdown on traffic violations through the corridor.
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State Patrol Chief John Batiste reminded his audience that individual drivers ultimately are responsible for road safety. He wants the public to know that speeding, drunken driving, reckless passing and inattentive driving — the primary causes of the highway’s 47 fatalities since 1999 — now are more likely to result in tickets and fines.
The corridor-safety program is considered a short-term approach to reducing accidents in areas that require a long-term infusion of cash for major road improvements. The state Department of Transportation has identified more than $1 billion in Highway 2 projects needed between Snohomish and Skykomish.
State Rep. Judy Clibborn, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, said the local community last fall convinced her of the highway’s funding needs. Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, and state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, together earmarked $10 million for Highway 2 safety projects, in addition to $4 million allocated for median rumble strips between Monroe and Stevens Pass.
In September, transportation-panel members took a tour-bus trip on Highway 2, while traveling between meetings in Monroe and Wenatchee. They passed a series of local residents holding up signs to mark the sites of fatal accidents.
Clibborn recalled talking to one of them — a man who then told her about his own nearly-fatal accident on another stretch of the highway.
“It was very graphic; it was so moving,” Clibborn said. “So when we came back [to Olympia], it made an indelible mark in our minds.”
Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or email@example.com