Concrete Barrier Addition to Highway 503 Coming; Road Design Case Generally

Posted by Bradley Thayer | Apr 17, 2020

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (“WSDOT”) and The Columbian newspaper, a project placing a concrete barrier at the center of state Highway 503 has been in development for some time and is aimed at eliminating crossover crashes and reducing the risk of left-turn crashes between intersections in the 2 1/2 mile or so stretch of road the barrier will be added (from Northeast 154th Street north to West Main Street-state Highway 502 in Battle Ground).

The problem? Here's the State's timeline:

  • Fall 2019: Project goes to competitive bid
  • Spring 2020: Construction scheduled to begin
  • Summer 2020: Construction scheduled for completion

In the meantime, a crash occurred that killed three people and left two children critically injured in March of 2020. A car traveling northbound tried to pass traffic on the left using the southbound lane and hit a minivan head-on, according to the Washington State Patrol.

From WSDOT prior to this March 2020 crash: “Data shows that these two separate segments within this stretch of SR 503 are among the top 20 highest locations for crashes along similar highways in Southwest Washington.”

While the concrete barrier actually being installed is an absolutely positive outcome that is and was much needed, here are some legitimate questions (with respect to what transpired prior to that project's anticipated completion):

  • As the entity responsible for the design and operation of SR 503, did the State have a duty to exercise reasonable care to provide the traveling public with a highway that was reasonably safe for ordinary travel?
  • To the extent the State had evidence that this stretch of SR 503 was dangerous and that the traveling public was at risk—could and should it have been addressed and fixed sooner?
  • By SR 503's design and operation (which WSDOT was responsible for) was it inherently dangerous for use by the traveling public?
  • Did the State thus negligently fail to provide a reasonably safe highway for the public?
  • What does the Washington State Department of Transportation Design Manual have to say about this (if it speaks on this particular topic)?
  • In terms of recent crashes, like the March 2020 crash, did the State breach its duty to provide the traveling public with a reasonably safe road and intersection, as required by law?

These are the types of questions an attorney who has handled road and highway design cases can endeavor to help folks answer when it appears appropriate to investigate further under similar circumstances as those outlined above.  If you or someone you know needs help answering questions along these lines, give our attorneys a call and schedule a free consultation.

About the Author

Bradley Thayer

Brad Thayer is a partner at the Schauermann Thayer firm. Brad is licensed in both Oregon and Washington. He has been practicing law since 2015. He was presented the 2018 Rising Star Award by the Clark County Bar Association. Brad's practice focuses on automobile collision, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian injury, dog bite, and myriad other types of injury and insurance cases. During his free time, Brad enjoys following the Portland Trail Blazers, playing basketball, going to concerts, and playing the drums. He especially enjoys hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and exploring other Northwest wonders.

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