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Thursday, October 26, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Just Ask Johnston

Highway 522: It's Nothing To Brag About

Hey Johnston: I read in Reader's Digest that Highway 522 is one of the nation's 10 deadliest highways. I know they're fixing it, but when will it be finished?

Answer: Isn't it amazing that politicians can come up with $250 million to build a stadium for a baseball team but not $144 million to fix a stretch of road where almost 50 people have been killed the past 10 years?

Bragging that the highway between Woodinville and Monroe is one of the country's 10 deadliest isn't something the state likes to put on its tourist advertisements. Part of the problem is that Highway 522 was designed as a four-lane road but the state only put in two lanes.

Motorists speed along the road like they are on the interstate, and there are people pulling out of side roads and passing on curves into head-on traffic. The state has tried to keep the carnage down by asking people to turn on their headlights.

There are several plans to improve the highway, but no money to do them. There was even a proposal to put a toll on the road to raise the money, but that idea was shelved.

About the only improvement has been a "rumble strip" along parts of the highway. These are little bumps in the middle of the road that wake you up when you drift into oncoming traffic.

Hey Johnston: I've been in the state for four years and drive a taxi on the Eastside. Why do drivers here drive in the passing lane (the left lane) at 55 mph and do not get out of the way for people who want to pass?

Answer: Two reasons: 1. Because 55 is the speed limit, and some people believe if they are obeying the law they don't have to move over for lawbreakers. 2. Because they can.

Hey Johnston: On Interstate 405 south through the "S curves" there is no sign saying that Highway 167 is coming up far enough in advance to let motorists know when to exit. The only sign is about a quarter-mile before the exit. Will there be another sign farther ahead?

Answer: We've had several calls about this sign, and they forced us to get out of our warm office and drive to Renton on I-405 to see for ourself.

Our report: If you are in the left lane, you won't be able to get off I-405 by the time you see the sign for Highway 167. We suppose you could muscle your way across three lanes of traffic, but it would be dangerous for all concerned.

When the state Department of Transportation (Motto: "We want to make your commute a living hell") put in the car-pool lane, it took down the Highway 167 sign that gave you some early warning and didn't replace it. The state started hearing complaints right away.

This being a government operation, a citizens committee was formed to look into this missing-sign issue. Guess what? The committee disappeared and hasn't been heard from since. Maybe the members got lost on 405.

But the state is planning to put up a new sign in the next few months. The question is whether to put the sign on the side of road or on one of the overpasses.

How to Just Ask Johnston: This column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Local News section of the Eastside edition. Leave your questions on Steve Johnston's voice mail at 464-8475. The e-mail address is east@seatimes.com. Or write: Just Ask Johnston, c/o The Seattle Times, 10777 Main St., Suite 100, Bellevue, WA 98004.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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