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News / Clark County News

Highway 14 sees more collisions during construction

Stretch between Southeast 164th Avenue and I-205 getting a third lane in each direction

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 10, 2023, 6:05am
2 Photos
During construction of a third lane on Highway 14, there have been an increased number of collisions and disabled vehicles.
During construction of a third lane on Highway 14, there have been an increased number of collisions and disabled vehicles. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

If you’ve noticed more collisions on Highway 14 between Southeast 164th Avenue and Interstate 205, you’re not imagining it.

As construction to add a third lane to both directions of that stretch of freeway continues through next summer, so will the narrow, shoulderless lanes.

Between December 2022 and June 9, the area was the site of 21 collisions and 11 disabled vehicles, like those that ran out of gas or got a flat tire, according to Washington State Department of Transportation Assistant Communications Manager Kelly Hanahan. In the same period last year, there were eight reported incidents.

The cause of these incidents varies from lack of shoulder for disabled vehicles, high speeds through the work zone and rear-end collisions from congestion in the work zone, according to Hanahan.

Driving behavior has gotten worse since before the pandemic in work zones and across the board.

To alert drivers of congestion, WSDOT is planning to set up a queue warning system, a sign that will indicate the conditions ahead.

The contractor is currently working on a noise wall along the north side of the highway. At 30 percent complete, it is the part that takes the longest to complete as well as being a prerequisite before most other construction activities, like building the new lane, can begin.

Peak-use shoulder

Once the project is complete, drivers will be able to use that stretch of shoulder during peak times on westbound Highway 14, marking the first, non-bus instance of shoulder driving in Clark County.

With heavy westbound traffic merging onto southbound I-205 at peak hours, the shoulder will be available to vehicles merging onto northbound I-205 and removing the vehicles from the queue so they’re not backing up.

The westbound Highway 14 shoulder will be roughly 13 feet wide. Dynamic signs will indicate to drivers when the shoulder is open. There will also be emergency pullout areas, which are beyond the shoulder, spaced about every half mile.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer