The victims in 1 in 7 traffic deaths in the Tri-Cities in recent years were a pedestrian or a bicyclist.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission found that 15 of the 108 traffic fatalities from 2016 to 2020 in Benton and Franklin counties were either someone walking or riding a bike.
And the vast majority were pedestrians.
In all, Kennewick and Richland had five pedestrian deaths each over the 5-year period, according to the traffic commission.
And Pasco had three pedestrians and one bicyclist die in crashes. and Benton City had a pedestrian death during that time.
The commission’s traffic fatality data has not been updated with deaths from 2021, but recent wrecks indicate those trends have not slowed.
Just this month, Kennewick police arrested the driver they suspect was behind the wheel of a car that hit a woman crossing Clearwater Avenue and died two months ago.
And in March, a Pasco driver was sentenced for hitting and killing a man walking in a dark highway interchange in 2018 and then driving away.
The number of pedestrian and biking deaths is a problem local officials have been scrambling to solve.
What’s being done
According to the 2022 Washington Highway Safety Plan, Benton County has the 6th worst rate in the state for pedestrian and bicyclist deaths per 100,000 people.
As a result, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office received a $60,000 grant from the state for the Tri-Cities Walker Safety Project.
The goal of the project is to reduce pedestrian deaths through publicizing the problem and multi-jurisdictional enforcement efforts at intersections where there are lots of near-misses and motorists tend to ignore pedestrian safety measures.
Officials also have been engaging community members in the planning efforts for major infrastructure projects to solicit feedback on concerns in the planning stages instead of strictly reactive efforts.
For example, in a recent public meeting in Pasco on the Broadmoor-Road 100 and Interstate 182 interchange, city planners were looking at pedestrian options that range from rebuilding the entire interchange to partial reconstruction on either side with dedicated walking and biking paths.
Pasco also is investing in walkable areas in its Broadmoor development, as well as sidewalk and bike paths connecting Sacajawea Trail to growing industrial areas in east Pasco.
Richland has been soliciting input for pedestrian improvements for the upcoming Highway 240 and Aaron Road interchange redesigns. They’re also looking at improvements for George Washington Way.
Another major project in Richland will connect the city to the Port of Kennewick’s Vista Field development.
That project includes a bridge over Highway 240, a crossing or bridge over the Columbia Irrigation District canal, a bridge over Columbia Center Boulevard, a pedestrian and bicycle trail from Steptoe east to Center Parkway, and additional improvements and safety crossings along the route.
In Kennewick’s six-year transportation plan, about 20 projects include improvements to pedestrian pathways and sidewalks.
Kennewick also plans to spend $125,000 annually on a citywide sidewalk renewal, replacement and improvement plan between now and 2027.