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News / Clark County News

Highway 502 median barrier creates divide

State says it will boost safety; business owners fear impacts

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published: October 12, 2015, 6:10am
3 Photos
Construction crews are in the process of installing about 20,000 feet of median barrier along state Highway 502 between Interstate 5 and Battle Ground.
Construction crews are in the process of installing about 20,000 feet of median barrier along state Highway 502 between Interstate 5 and Battle Ground. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BATTLE GROUND — The ongoing transformation of state Highway 502 between Interstate 5 and Battle Ground is in the midst of one of its biggest changes yet.

Construction crews are in the process of installing some four miles of concrete barrier that will divide the highway and prevent left turns along much of the corridor. It’s a difference that will improve safety on the busy highway, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. But it’s also a major adjustment for people who live and work along the roadway.

“It’s a change,” said WSDOT spokesman Bart Treece. “It’s a change that will take some time for people to get used to.”

Not everyone is happy about it. Susan Wodaege, who owns Korner Kuts Barber Shop, said the construction has been a “nightmare” for her business and others. Korner Kuts’ business is down about 50 percent this year as people steer clear of the work zone, she said.

The barber shop sits at 7702 N.E. 219th St., just east of Dollars Corner along the highway. The median barrier hasn’t been fully installed there, but when it is, eastbound travelers will have to turn around at Northeast 92nd Avenue to reach Wodaege’s side of the highway.

“I’m really worried about it,” she said. “It’s going to be difficult for them to get in.”

WSDOT is expanding the highway from two to four lanes in an effort to relieve congestion and improve safety along the corridor. The $88 million project is rebuilding a highway that carries between 15,000 and 17,000 vehicles per day, according to WSDOT.

Installation of the concrete median barrier began last month. Crews have so far installed about 7,000 feet of the 20,000 feet of barrier that will divide the highway. Additional barrier sections are set to arrive this week, said Jeff Katzer, a lead inspector on the project with WSDOT. The agency has worked with businesses and residents throughout the project, Treece said.

The finished project will allow space for U-turns at key intersections including Northeast 29th, 50th, 72nd and 92nd avenues, according to WSDOT.

For now, the highway looks very different from one end of the corridor to the other. To the west of Northeast 50th Avenue, the barrier is mostly installed and the roadway paved. To the east, more work remains unfinished.

“When it’s in limbo, it’s hard for people to understand quite what’s going on,” Katzer said.

Some areas of the highway will be restriped and open to four lanes later this fall, Katzer said. Other work will continue through the winter and into next year, he said.

Near Northeast 92nd Avenue, for example, crews are constructing a new bridge that will carry the highway over Mill Creek. New girders will create a wider opening under the roadway, replacing aging culverts that had been in place for decades.

“They were in pretty bad shape when we tore them out,” Katzer said. “They were due to be replaced.”

The entire project is scheduled to wrap up in 2016.

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Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter