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Washington DOT regional administrators present variety of design plans for intersection at Highway 2 and Colbert Road

January 24, 2019

The Washington state Department of Transportation presented Colbert area residents last week with several options for reducing traffic crashes at the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Colbert Road, but cautioned there is no money yet to pay for any of them.

DOT Regional administrator Mike Gribner said he’s already been talking to local legislators about getting funding for a project. He promised his department would also explore using grants or discretionary funds to pay for a portion of any construction project.

“We’re going to be turning every rock over to see if we can get funding for this,” he said.

There were three crashes at the intersection in October. Neighbors demanded action and a previous community meeting was held in November. Gribner said it was the community outcry that focused attention on the intersection, which has a much lower crash rate than many other intersections in the area.

“If it wasn’t for all this attention, we wouldn’t be doing anything out here,” he said. “We’re a bit early here. Right now I think we have some flexibility for you to have some influence.”

All the options include some sort of trade-off between convenience and safety, said assistant regional administrator Larry Larson. “You’re not all going to like these alternatives,” he said. “We learned that at the last meeting. You may have to drive a little farther to get where you want to go.”

Right now there is traffic crossing all four lanes of Highway 2 going east and west on Colbert Road. There are also people turning left from northbound and southbound Highway 2. Most of the options discussed at last week’s meeting include eliminating the Colbert Road cross traffic.

“What we’re trying to do here is reduce the conflict points,” Larson said.

Other than doing nothing, the cheapest option would be to completely block the intersection, which would cost $70,000 for barriers. “It would have the greatest effect on safety, but it would have the most effect on convenience,” Larson said.

The next option would be to allow only left turns for northbound and southbound traffic on Highway 2 at a cost of $440,000. The next option, allowing left turns from Highway 2 and adding a southbound acceleration lane, would cost just over $1 million.

The most expensive option, at $2.3 million, would be what is known as a “J turn” intersection that would create U-turn routes in the median for traffic that wants to turn left onto Highway 2 from Colbert Road. Left turns would also be allowed off Highway 2.

“This is the most convenient out of all of them,” said Larson. “It would improve safety quite a bit.”

Some in the audience wanted to discuss other options, including adding a roundabout. Building a roundabout on a divided highway is very difficult, very expensive and not feasible, Gribner said. Others suggested lowering the speed limit, but Gribner said that couldn’t be done without redesigning the road.

“There’s no free lunch here,” Gribner said. “I think the J turn option is the most reasonable option that I think we can afford.”

No one in the crowd showed any interest in the cheapest option, which would close the intersection entirely. Most favored the J turn option, with the project that includes a southbound acceleration lane coming in second.

Gribner said any of the projects could be completed in one construction season but said that it will likely take at least two years, if not longer, to get funding. He agreed to try to find money for the J turn option and work his way down the list to cheaper options if not enough money could be found.

“A million dollars, quite frankly, could be the difference between a yes and a no,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into play here.”

He encouraged people to get in touch with their elected representatives to lobby for the intersection project.

“Call your legislators,” he said. “It can’t hurt a thing.”

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