State Route 302 is considered by many Key Peninsula residents and workers to be one of the most dangerous highways in the state.
Chuck West, battalion chief at Key Peninsula Fire & Medic One and president of the Key Peninsula Community Council, considers the highway to be treacherous.
“The highway is really unforgiving,” West, an employee with the fire department for 29 years, said. “There’s really nowhere for a vehicle to go … there’s no room for error.”
SR 302 begins in Purdy and continues over the Purdy sandspit, up the hill and out through the Key Peninsula until it intersects with Highway 3 in Mason County.
The highway is really unforgiving. There’s really no where for a vehicle to go … there’s no room for error.
Chuck West, battalion chief at Key Peninsula Fire & Medic One and president of the Key Peninsula Community Council
The part West considers most dangerous is the stretch just after the Purdy sandspit, beginning at Goldman Dr. NW, through Danforth. This area, known as the Wauna curves, has limited sight distance and numerous driveways that allows cars to enter and exit the highway at multiple locations.
“You can see a maintenance issue there,” West said of the stretch of road. “We’re constantly pushing for maintenance (and) better maintenance.”
Marcia Harris, the council’s treasurer and also a Key Peninsula resident, agrees with West.
“The Wauna curves are treacherous,” she said. “I don’t know that there’s any way to widen that.”
In his role with the council, West continues to work with the Washington Department of Transportation and the state Legislature to bring funding to better maintain and improve safety along SR 302.
You can see a maintenance issue (at the Wauna curves). We’re constantly pushing for maintenance (and) better maintenance.
Last year, the DOT expanded the roadway at 118th Ave and added a left turn lane and several pullout areas along SR 302, West said.
“We generally push for improvements along the highway — (we were) instrumental for improvements at 118th,” he said.
The improvement that the council is focusing on for this year with the DOT is to improve safety at the crosswalk located on the 9700 block of the highway. It’s the same crosswalk is where teenager Chad Stark was struck by a vehicle while crossing the highway on Dec. 24.
West said the council is hoping for more lighting and visibility at the crosswalk, with the ideal situation being lights set into the ground that begin flashing only when a pedestrian is about to cross the road.
“In my mind, the most affective pedestrian crosswalks are the ones they have in the city of Gig Harbor,” Harris said. “It becomes a change and visually catches the driver’s eye.”
Inattentive driving is a cause for many of the accidents that West sees along SR 302.
It’s a combination of people getting distracted and then the roads not having any room for error. A major concern for me is the pedestrian access.
“It’s a combination of people getting distracted and then the roads not having any room for error,” he said. “A major concern for me is the pedestrian access. We have a lot of people walking along the road, (and) pedestrian safety is a big concern.”
Harris sees poor lighting, combined with pedestrian traffic, as a concern all along SR 302 and further out along the Key Peninsula Highway.
“Lighting is sort of number one on my list. It’s so hard to see at night,” she said. “The further out you go the darker it gets.”
The difficulty in getting these problems resolved is the lack of funding assigned to maintenance and improvements.
“What we’ve found is that when we’ve focused our requests on one thing then we’re more likely to get what we need,” West said. “We need to focus on one issue at a time.”
The ideal situation for West to fix the problems and safety concerns along SR 302 would be to realign the highway with 144th and continue it straight down along the power line road.
“It seems like the logical solution (to me),” he said. “Obviously there’s a large funding tab associated with (the project).”
The council is currently working to schedule a meeting with the DOT sometime in April. The date of the meeting will be announced on the council’s website at www.kpcouncil.org/about_us.php.