Washington State Democrats recently proposed a transportation budget to the state House that includes investments into the state Route 18 widening from Issaquah-Hobart Road to Raging River just south of Interstate 90.
The proposal allocates more than $171 million to transportation projects throughout the 5th Legislative District and will dedicate $26 million to the initial planning and approval phase to widen SR 18. Specifically, the project would widen the highway 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 I-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. “Securing this funding would be a game changer for our communities. We are making investments to ease traffic and make our roads safer.”
The 7-mile stretch of SR 18 has seen numerous collisions and deaths over years of use, with the most recent widely reported incident killing two Kent women. The victims were on their way to work at the Snoqualmie Casino, which offered $1 million to accelerate the project after the accident in October 2018.
“We lost two of our most beloved team members — it was something that affected all of us,” Snoqualmie Casino CEO Brian Decorah said at the time. “We have 450 team members that travel this stretch of road, every day. Each day without action is another day that we wait to hear news of another tragedy. We don’t want to wait. We want action, for Maria, Jasmine, and everyone who has lost a loved one on this road.”
“Thank you for all your donations and support,” wrote Michelle Lao, daughter and sister of the victims. “A lot of you, my brother and I don’t even know, but we can see how big your hearts are.”
From December 2017 to October 2018, there were 38 fatalities on state routes and interstates in King County according to the Washington State Patrol. According to Washington State Department of Transportation traffic data, six of those occurred along the 7-mile stretch of SR 18.
While the driver who caused the October accident was charged with DUI among other charges, the highway is often criticized for its lack of median and street lights along steep hills and minimal lanes.
“Our constituents have been clear about their transportation priorities,” Rep. Lisa Callan said. “Making sure that we complete the widening of Highway 18 was at the top of that list. They want a safer commute with fewer accidents, less time in traffic, and more time with family and friends. We’re working to make that happen.”
After passing in the House, the transportation budget will move to the Senate for consideration. The complete budget can be found at the Washington State Fiscal Information website at fiscal.wa.gov.