Washington legislators recently finalized the transportation budget, allocating $26.9 million towards state Route 18 improvements and causing celebration within the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe.
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe and Snoqualmie Casino had offered the state $1 million to as an incentive to encourage legislators to expedite SR 18 improvements from Raging River to Issaquah Hobart Road. The offer came in last November, a few weeks after two Snoqualmie Casino employees died in a fatal accident along the notoriously dangerous road.
“The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe is deeply thankful to Gov. Jay Inslee, our state legislators Sen. Mark Mullet, Rep. Lisa Callan, and Rep. Bill Ramos, and our partners in local government and business for all working together to improve the safety of East King County,” Snoqualmie Chairman Robert de los Angeles said.
Maria Wong, 59, and Jasmine Lao, 21, were a mother and daughter on their way to work at the Snoqualmie Casino. The two Kent women were struck by an impaired driver and were the 37th and 38th lives lost on state routes and interstates in King County during 2018.
The GoFundMe campaign to help support Wong and Lao’s children and siblings raised more than twice its goal within two months, gathering $30,340 from 332 individual donations.
“Safety on our roadways is always our top priority,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “I appreciate that legislators, local leaders and the Snoqualmie Tribe were able to secure funding that will expedite the early steps of this project. This will not only improve the safety of this busy corridor, but it will help support the economic vitality of this community.”
About 40 percent of casino employees commute along the highway. According to the Snoqualmie Tribe, a traffic fatality occurs along the 7-mile stretch of SR 18 about every 50 days, which is consistent with Washington State Department of Transportation statistics.
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribal Council made SR 18 improvements a top priority in 2018 and celebrated the end of successful advocacy efforts earlier this month.
“Over 500 tribal employees, and many more tribal citizens, travel that dangerous stretch of road every day, and we have lost dearly-beloved community members and employees to accidents,” de los Angeles said. “I know everyone in our area will breathe a sigh of relief knowing our state is urgently addressing this crisis.”
The budgeted funding will fund the initial planning and approval phase to widen SR 18 from two lanes to four lanes, add a concrete median to prevent head-on collisions and include truck lanes on uphill sections.
“We had two major priorities when we came to Olympia: get Interstate 90, state Route 18 interchange finished as quickly as possible, and secure funding to widening the last bit of state Route 18 to four lanes,” said Rep. Bill Ramos, who serves on the House transportation committee, when the state was considering the funding. “Securing this funding would be a game changer for our communities. We are making investments to ease traffic and make our roads safer.”