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Wazzu mom asking for safer highways around Washington State University

After two WSU students died, and one was injured, in car crashes as they left school for Thanksgiving break, a Wazzu mom is asking the state for safer roads. (Jeremy Segrott, Flickr)

A Wazzu parent is pressing the state to make roads around Washington State University safer after two students were killed, and one was seriously injured, while leaving for Thanksgiving break.

Christine Hunter, 18, was killed when her car crossed the center line on Highway 195 near Rosalia and hit another car head-on. Her passenger, Sidney Ritter, was seriously hurt.

Morgan Cope, 20, was killed on Highway 26 west of Colfax. Her car was hit by a driver that crossed the center line, too.

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Drugs and alcohol are not considered factors in these crashes. Both crashes happened in mid to late afternoon.

Highway 195 and Highway 26 are dark, rural two-lane highways. Drivers often make dangerous passes of slower vehicles. There are no passing lanes. It can add up to dangerous driving conditions.

“They know this is happening, it’s been happening for years,” said Dorene Boyle, of Yakima. “The bottom line is that people are dying – young students are dying.”

Boyle has a daughter at Wazzu. She’s started an online campaign asking the state Department of Transportation to add passing lanes or expand the highways to four lanes.

“My daughter is concerned about it. I’m concerned every time she gets on the road,” Boyle said. “She drives the four-lane roads as long as she can, until you get to the point where you don’t have a choice.”

More than 5,200 people have signed her petition that is making the rounds on social media.

Boyle is aiming for 10,000 signatures. Then she plans on taking the petition to the state.

“It’s not like there’s not property out there where they can make a second lane, or a passing lane,” Boyle said. “There’s probably farmers that would donate parts of their land to make another lane. There’s tons of land out there, so it can be done.”

But it’s going to take a lot of money. The state can’t just widen the roads or add lanes that quickly.

In looking at the state’s list of highway improvements, however, I found two projects already on the books for these roads.

There are plans for an $11 million project to add passing lanes on Highway 195 near Colfax. And an $11 million project to add climbing lanes for slow-moving vehicles on Highway 26, also near Colfax. They are both funded under the transportation package passed by the Legislature this year.

The likelihood of making these rural roads into four-lane highways isn’t good. They just don’t have the need. Only 4,000-7,000 cars use Highway 195. It’s less than that on Highway 26.

We have neighborhood streets across Puget Sound that have more traffic.


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