Casino of­fers $1M for safety fixes to high­way

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY MICHELLE BARUCHMAN The Seat­tle Times

Sno­qualmie Casino is of­fer­ing the state $1 mil­lion to ac­cel­er­ate safety im­prove­ments on High­way 18 af­ter two casino em­ploy­ees were killed in a head-on col­li­sion at Tiger Moun­tain sum­mit.

Maria Wong and Jas­mine Lao were on their way to work early Oct. 12 on the high­way when a pickup crossed the cen­ter­line and col­lided with their ve­hi­cle.

The truck driver was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of two counts of ve­hic­u­lar homi­cide. Wong and Lao, who were mother and daugh­ter, were mourned by their co-work­ers at Sno­qualmie Casino.

“They were the sweet­est but also the most hard­work­ing peo­ple,” said Brian Dec­o­rah, the casino’s CEO.

The Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (WSDOT) has been plan­ning to study pos­si­ble safety im­prove­ments to High­way 18 and es­ti­mated costs of con­struc­tion, with state money that be­comes avail­able next July. The casino is of­fer­ing $1 mil­lion to speed up the process.

High­way 18 runs be­tween Fed­eral Way and Sno­qualmie, south of Seat­tle. With rapid growth in Sno­qualmie and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties, the in­ter­change at High­way 18 and In­ter­state 90 has be­come one of the busiest in the state.

It’s a pop­u­lar route for truck driv­ers be­cause the high­way con­nects to ware­houses in Auburn and can pro­vide a short­cut be­tween I-90 and In­ter­state 5. Its south­ern end also is not far from the Port of Ta­coma.

WSDOT says it plans to en­gage with the com­mu­nity over how to “pro­vide bet­ter traf­fic flow and con­ges­tion re­lief” and con­duct traf­fic and en­vi­ron­men­tal analy­ses. Con­struc­tion is set to be­gin in 2021.

“There are no sim­ple – or low-cost – so­lu­tions to im­prov­ing” High­way 18 over Tiger Moun­tain, a WSDOT blog post says. Adding a cen­ter bar­rier to prevent head-on col­li­sions would re­quire widen­ing the road­way, the post says.

“We em­pathize with all of those im­pacted by the re­cent losses on SR 18. We also place great value on part­ner­ships with ju­ris­dic­tions and em­ploy­ers that help ad­dress safety is­sues on the trans­porta­tion sys­tem,” WSDOT spokes­woman Kris Olsen said in a state­ment. “We are work­ing to de­ter­mine how Sno­qualmie Casino’s fund­ing of­fer could be uti­lized and look for­ward to co­or­di­nat­ing with part­ners in this area.”

Dec­o­rah sent the of­fer let­ter to WSDOT Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion Roger Mil­lar, Gov. Jay Inslee, the tribal li­ai­son with WSDOT, and King County, with a stip­u­la­tion that ac­tion be taken within the next 90 days.

Wong worked as a slot at­ten­dant for nearly 10 years. Lao joined in the sum­mer of 2016 as a se­cu­rity of­fi­cer.

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