Sidewalk changes to come at deadly Hoquiam intersection

The City of Hoquiam and the Washington State Department of Transportation had plans to update the sidewalks at the intersection of Simpson Avenue and 22nd Street in Hoquiam prior to a fatal accident Oct. 8 involving a woman in a wheelchair. A local advocate for the disabled had been pushing for the changes.

The improvements would have added curb cuts, ramps allowing easier access to crosswalks and sidewalks, which are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wes Brosman of Cosmopolis, an advocate for the disabled community, said Hoquiam resident Darla Dean’s death may have been prevented had the safety features already been installed.

“It was totally avoidable and I think that her difficulty navigating that intersection contributed to that accident,” Brosman said. “This law was passed in 1990, for gosh sakes. It’s been in effect for 23 years. They should have been updated by now.”

But city and state officials aren’t sure whether curb cuts would have helped in this case, as Dean was struck while in the crosswalk. Official accident reports haven’t yet been released by the Washington State Patrol and the Hoquiam Police Department.

“Where that person was hit, it was in the crosswalk,” said Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay. “But regardless, that intersection needs ADA crosswalks. But the person was hit in the middle of the intersection.”

Claudia Bingham Baker, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, agreed.

The city and the state entered into an agreement to remedy the sidewalk problem in late February, after Brosman notified the agencies that the intersection wasn’t ADA compliant. The City of Hoquiam already had plans to replace sidewalks along K Street, and the Department of Transportation offered to cover the cost of new sidewalks at Simpson Avenue and 22nd Street if it were to be included in the project.

The state agreed to reimburse the City of Hoquiam for the project, which Shay said is likely to cost about $70,000. Simpson Avenue is part of Highway 101, and is maintained by the state.

“What’s interesting is that under state law, when the Department of Transportation makes improvements, they have to make sure that the sidewalks along the road are ADA compliant,” Shay said. “They should be paving that stretch of road in the next five years, but with Mr. Brosman pointing out that intersection’s problems, they wanted to make changes before that.”

The sidewalk project was originally scheduled to begin in early summer and be completed by the end of September. But the project was delayed and is just now getting under way. Shay said crews will try to complete the new sidewalks by the end of this year, but rainy weathers could cause part of the project to be postponed until spring of 2014.