The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Citizens press county to pursue highway safety


April 26, 2018

On a day with a limited agenda, citizens in the audience pressed the Wahkiakum County board of commissioners on Tuesday to pursue traffic safety measures on SR 4.

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been consulting with the county, Town of Cathlamet and Wahkiakum School District about possible changes to speed limits and traffic patterns in the Cathlamet area. The department intends to lower the speed limit in the area to 45 miles per hour this spring to study impacts on traffic.

Residents had two traffic accidents in mind: Last Thursday, a motorist crashed into a line of four cars stopped near County Line Park for highway maintenance work, sending one man to intensive care and totalling four vehicles, and the second, a fatality accident Sunday near Astoria that closed US 30 for several hours. Much of the traffic intending to use US 30 detoured to SR 4 in a seemingly unbroken line that backed up 12 miles westward from the stop the light at the slide zone at milepost 50 at Stella.

Citizens told Commissioners Mike Backman and Blair Brady (colleague Dan Cothren was representing the board at a meeting in Olympia) they were concerned that motorists, either following the detour or local residents running errands, had no warning of the heavy traffic and 12-mile backup.

"When these events happen," Backman began, "they should do something, maybe have a flagger at the stop light," Brady finished. Flaggers, they reasoned, would have fed traffic through the one-lane section faster than stoplights that might be green when there was no westbound traffic.

Cathlamet resident Craig Nielson expressed concern about safety at the Main Street/SR 4 intersection. Trees limit visibility to the west and make left turns dangerous, he said.

"When I was young, I think the trees were limbed up," he said, and the intersection was safer. He suggested commissioners press WSDOT to do something about the trees; he also said he favored a lower speed limit but no round-abouts.

Commissioners responded that they, the town, and the school district have written to state officials seeking lower speed, turn lanes and other safety measures in the area.

"What I'd like to see," Commissioner Brady said, "is crosswalks like you see in Longview or Olympia with blinking lights going across the street. They're really effective; it needs lighting, in my opinion."

In other business Tuesday:

--Commissioners approved an amendment to their Ferry Deficit Agreement with WSDOT that adds $190,000 to the 80 percent subsidy which the state pays for operation of the county ferry.

Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said even with the subsidy, the county has a shortfall of $120-130,000 each biennium for the cost of operating the ferry.

--Beyer announced that the county has installed a locked gate to block the upper Elochoman Valley Road. A large landslide threatens the county road and two houses which are being evacuated. State geologists are evaluating the slide.

--Cathlamet businesswoman Paige Lake reminded everyone that the Pioneer Community Association is sponsoring Clean Up The Town this Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Volunteers will gather to clean up the down town area, Erickson Park and waterfront trails.


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