A concrete barrier will be placed this year to the center of state Highway 503 where three people were killed in a head-on crash Friday.
A contractor working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will add a precast concrete barrier, nearly 3 feet in height, along the center of the highway, from Northeast 154th Street north to West Main Street-state Highway 502 in Battle Ground.
The project has been in development for some time and is not a response to Friday’s fatal crash north of the Salmon Creek Bridge in Brush Prairie.
WSDOT sought competitive bids for the project last fall and awarded a $1.8 million contract to Rotschy Inc. Construction is scheduled to begin next month.
About 2 1/2 miles of concrete barrier will be installed. Median barrier already is in place between Southwest Eaton Boulevard and Southwest Scotton Way in Battle Ground.
The project’s webpage, www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr503/154th-SR-502, says placing a barrier in the middle of Highway 503 will eliminate crossover crashes and reduce the risk of left-turn crashes between intersections.
Friday’s crash occurred at about 3:50 p.m. According to the Washington State Patrol, Kristi J. Byars, 41, of Battle Ground, was driving a 2015 Volkswagen Golf north on the highway when her car crossed over the center line and collided with a southbound 2007 Honda Odyssey driven by Rosa M. Wilson, 31, of Brush Prairie.
Byars and Wilson were killed, along with Wilson’s 5-year-old daughter, who was identified on a GoFundMe page as Juniper Kate Wilson. The same page indicates that Wilson’s two other children, 7-year-old Elliot and 3-year-old Iona, were critically injured in the crash and are being treated in the pediatric intensive care unit at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland.
A report from hospital officials on the two children’s conditions was unavailable late Monday afternoon. According to the GoFundMe page, both children suffered broken bones and lacerated spleens. A Sunday evening update on the page said Iona was deeply sedated in a medically induced coma because of brain swelling. Elliot was being monitored for his breathing and possible neck injury.
As of Monday afternoon, the GoFundMe, www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-brian-elliot-and-iona-wilson, had raised $133,353 for the family.
High crash locations
WSDOT is building the safety improvements largely in response to crash data. In 2015, two segments within this stretch of Highway 503 ranked No. 11 and No. 13 for crashes on this type of state highway in Washington.
Once the concrete barrier is installed, access on and off this section of Highway 503 will be restricted to right turns only, except at intersections with traffic signals.
Tamara Greenwell, WSDOT communications manager in Southwest Washington, said the barrier will improve safety and reduce fatal and severe crashes, but it will not prevent all crashes.
“Excessive speed, distracted/inattentive driving and driving under the influence are the top three causes of serious injury/fatal crashes in Washington,” she wrote in an email.
Greenwell said there has been an 8 percent increase in traffic along this section of Highway 503 during the five past years.
During the same period, there were 214 reported crashes along this stretch of highway, she said. Nearly half were rear-end crashes, and one-third involved inattentive or distracted drivers.
Two of those crashes resulted in fatalities:
• On April 2, 2015, a vehicle was traveling north on Highway 503 in the right lane when it veered to the left and hit a vehicle in the left northbound lane. The vehicle then crossed the center line and crashed into a southbound vehicle.
• On July 28, 2018, a vehicle was using a left-turn lane at the Highway 503/Highway 502 intersection in Battle Ground when it crashed into a curb and then a building on the intersection’s southeast corner.