Safety improvements planned for road some call ‘Highway of Death’

MONROE, Wash. – Safety improvements are coming to a busy stretch of Snohomish County highway where dozens of people have died in traffic accidents.

U.S. Route 2 from Everett to Stevens Pass is categorized as a Traffic Safety Corridor by the Washington State Department of Transportation.  New safety measures are planned to help reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes.

Since 2001, WSDOT says, nearly 70 people have been killed in crashes along the busy highway.

Construction is scheduled to be finished in October 2019, but the safety measures can’t come soon enough for people who have lost loved ones.

“You can’t afford to have your concentration lapse for less than a second,” said Sultan City Council member John Seehuus.

Seehuus and Fred Walser serve on the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition pushing lawmakers to allocate money to address the number of injuries and fatalities on the roadway.

Walser also served as a Washington State Patrol trooper for decades and he investigated dozens of gruesome accidents.

“I was the guy that had to go to the door of a victim’s house (to tell them) that their husband, wife, daughter, son had been involved in a fatal crash,” he said. “That was the toughest part of the job.”

In many places the highway is only separated by a double yellow line and rumble strips. It only takes a fraction of a second for a drunk or distracted driver to veer into traffic and cause fatal crashes.

“It brings up sorrow and rage,” said Seehuus.

Starting in 2019, WSDOT plans to install about 2 miles of concrete barriers, and another 7 miles will see a new 6-foot-wide median, separating westbound and eastbound traffic.

It could cost about $22 million but the project will happen at the same time the roadway gets new pavement. Engineers say that will end up saving money in the long run.

“By combining all of the paving work and the barrier work, we’re able to probably save taxpayer money by about $1 million,” said WSDOT spokesperson Harmony Weinberg.

WSDOT is also planning to make more safety improvements on the highway from Monroe to Sultan. That construction is scheduled to be completed by 2022.