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Fixing ‘pinball’ highway: Carnation woman forms group, calls for wider roads
Cars race by as Jackie Perrigoue wielded a yardstick by the narrow side of Highway 203, aiming to prove a point.
In a traffic lull, the lifelong Carnation resident and retiree darted across the highway and checked the width of pavement between the fogline and recently installed guardrail near the 77th Street intersection.
“It was less than a yard,” she said. “There is no room for error.”
Taking aim at narrow Carnation highways and rails installed by the state this spring, Perriguoe has founded a group called Voters for a Safer 203. She has called a town hall meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, at Tolt Middle School, inviting state and local officials and demanding new road standards with more space for bike lanes and shoulders.
“The shoulders we have are pretty much non-existant,” Perrigoue said.
While she welcomed new guardrails in some areas, Perrigoue pointed to several stretches, including north of town near 77th Street and south near Pleasant Hill, where she said narrow lanes could be more dangerous during icy conditions or accidents.
“The DOT turned this into a pinball machine,” Perrigoue said.
When cars lose traction or swerve, she is concerned that they will glance off rails rather than crumple them. Fewer shoulders mean that police and firefighters may be challenged to pull over or pass drivers, she added.
Perrigoue said Highway 203 north of the Snohomish county line is wider and safer, and wants the local stretch to catch up.
“It’s never been brought to the same standard,” she said.
Perrigoue, who was also part of a Carnation branding committee, said that narrow highways also deter cyclists from visiting the Lower Valley.
The Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation’s newest regional bicycle network report gives Highway 203 a ‘fail’ rating.
David Hiller, advocacy director for the club, said the highway near Carnation did not pass muster because of fast speeds combined with a lack of shoulders.
While Carnation is connected to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, Hiller said trails aren’t an adequate replacement for wider roads and dedicated bike lanes. Cyclists will not ride where they don’t feel safe, he added.
“Anytime you’ve got a line that says ‘this area is free of high-speed traffic,’ it proves an extra degree of comfort,” Hiller said. “That extra space can be the difference between having your heart rate rise and hitting someone.”
Shoulders aren’t just a bike issue, he added—they also offer safety benefits to motorists and pedestrians.
“On rural highways, a shoulder is just about the only place to walk to your mailbox or your neighbor’s house,” Hiller said.
Jenny Bullard, transportation director for the Riverview School District, said while some guardrail fixes might need to be made, most staff have told her that the state Department of Transportation’s project made roads safer.
“I was getting more positive feedback than negative,” she said.
Bullard planned to be at the middle school meeting to learn more about local highway statistics.
Hiller said the Cascade Bicycle Club will alert its members to attend and comment.
Perrigoue has invited officials including 45th District State Representative Roger Goodman and Larry Springer and State Sen. Eric Oenig to the meeting. She called the gathering this month to send a message during campaign season.
“We want to strike while the iron is hot,” she said.