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Addressing safety issues is a top priority for WSDOT and the community. State Route (SR) 500 is one of the major high-speed, east-west connections between I-5 and I-205, and a gateway into east Clark County. Growth and development in the area are contributing to increased traffic backups, delays and accidents.
Over the last 10 years, the number of people driving on SR 500 has increased by 30 percent. There are two traffic lights on SR 500: one at Northeast Falk Road/Northeast 42nd Avenue and the other at Northeast 54th Avenue/Northeast Stapleton Road. As traffic increases, collisions do, too. In the past five years, nearly 400 crashes have occurred near these two intersections. The primary contributing factor to crashes is increasing traffic congestion at these traffic lights. Efforts to improve safety have helped, but more improvements are necessary to have a significant impact in reducing collisions.
Crash data for SR 500 near Northeast 54th Avenue, and Northeast 42nd Avenue, 2012–2016
other types of crashes
multiple-vehicle rear-end crashes
|Crashes||Rear-end crashes||Crashes||Rear-end crashes|
|Total number of crashes||Total rear-end crashes|
Study Area History
Previous discussions to address safety, future growth projections, congestion and other needs on SR 500 have focused on the possibility of major infrastructure improvements, such as an overpass and interchange at Northeast 42nd Avenue and Northeast 54th Avenue. These improvements were estimated to cost $80 million. To date, no funding has been committed – these projects were not funded in the most recent legislative transportation package – and there is no certainty as to whether funding could be available for such a significant investment.
These two intersections have the last two remaining traffic lights between I-5 and I-205 on SR 500. Between 1998 and 2016, traffic grew by more than 30 percent. Today there are around 60,000 trips on SR 500 in this area every day. Over a five-year span, there were nearly 400 crashes around these intersections. On average, that is more than one crash a week. Our analysis shows that these crashes are the result of increasing traffic congestion at these traffic lights and driver inattention.
In response, we have worked to enhance safety by adjusting traffic light timing, coordinating the traffic lights and installing traffic-warning signs. These efforts alone at this location do not significantly reduce crashes. Additional changes are needed to continue to improve safety.
Will WSDOT build an overpass and interchange at these intersections?
WSDOT will not build an overpass and interchange at these locations as a result of this study. Funding for a project of this magnitude would need to be provided by the Washington State Legislature and there is no certainty as to whether it could be provided. There are, however, more affordable ways to address the safety needs on this vital Clark County route. These can and should be addressed as soon as possible.
As directed by the legislature, any improvements at these locations must be determined using a practical solutions approach, which focuses on cost-effective, data-driven strategies to address specific needs. The improvements being shared here address safety needs; and may improve travel reliability. These improvements may require some travelers to take a less direct route. Other needs may be identified in the future and used to identify additional improvements. It is possible that those needs could be met through more cost effective improvements.