Petition leads to changes at Rochester intersection

A petition asking Washington State Department of Transportation officials to fix a troublesome portion of U.S. Highway 12 near Rochester is achieving results.

Crews recently installed large reflective signs and rumble strips at the Pecan Street intersection and the Denmark Street Southwest intersection on U.S. Highway 12.

WSDOT also agreed to reduce the speed on U.S. Highway 12 near Rochester from 55 miles per hour to 50 miles per hour. Crews plan to install the new speed limit signs soon.

“WSDOT did what they were able to do to improve the safety of this highway with the resources they have available,” Derek White, a Rochester resident who spearheaded the petition, said. “I, as well as others, appreciate the efforts so far.”

White started the petition on following a violent four-vehicle collision at the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and Pecan Street in October that left a teenager and a 51-year-old Rochester man severely injured.

The petition, which specifically calls for improvements to the Pecan Street intersection and the Denmark Street Southwest intersection, has since received more than 700 signatures.

Kevin Dayton, WSDOT Olympic Region administrator, said the state did a safety analysis and found that the portion of U.S. Highway 12 near Rochester had 15 major accidents since January 2008, including one fatal accident.

“We looked at the type of accidents. As we looked at it, most of what we saw was that most people are not paying attention,” Dayton said.

In response to the petition, crews first installed larger 48-square-inch signs by the Pecan and Denmark Street intersections. The original signs were 36-square-inches.

The larger signs are often used on interstates with 70 mph speed limits, Dayton said.

New “Left Turn Ahead” signs have also been installed in each direction before each intersection.

“If (the signs) get one extra person’s attention, then it is well worth it,” Dayton said.

The rumble strips, installed last week, are on the roadway prior to the intersections.

Dayton said WSDOT did get some noise complaints from nearby neighbors regarding the rumble strips.

“You can fix one thing and it causes concern for another,” Dayton said.

The speed limit reduction, in place from I-5 to the Rochester city limits, may be difficult for drivers since the majority of traffic travels at an average of 58 miles per hour on that stretch of road, Dayton said.

WSDOT is worried that the lower speed limit may cause more traffic to use the oncoming lane to pass, Dayton said, but the new signage should help change drivers’ behavior on the roadway.

WSDOT used existing funds in its maintenance budget to complete the improvements.

Dayton said he is impressed with the way White gathered support with the petition.

“We like it when members of the community are engaged,” Dayton said. “Understanding the local implications of this and the countermeasures is extremely good.”

White said his focus will now shift to more long-term goals in fixing U.S. Highway 12 near Rochester. He plans to contact the Thurston County Commission and state legislators.

“A major revision is needed, but is not on the Legislature’s agenda at this time,” White said.


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