The building that houses Serenity Salon near the corner of 118th Street and State Route 302 has been hit by cars veering off the road twice in the last eight months. Owner Scott Wagner met with a representative of the Washington State Department of Transportation at the site after both accidents, and requested the installation of a guardrail to keep cars on their own turf. WSDOT declined that action, and instead reapplied road reflectors at closer intervals, and 4-foot fiberglass reflectors as well.
Wagner was advised that the state “doesn’t do things to protect private property,” he said. Wagner said he was curious why the nearby roadside creek had the security of a guardrail, but not his building and the people inside.
According to Steve Bennett, a traffic operations engineer with the WSDOT in Olympia, guardrails themselves can attract accidents when they impair drivers’ line of sight. The WSDOT is in the business of driver safety, not preservation, and guardrails are used in various ways to accomplish that, he said.
Those fronting creeks and the like prevent errant autos from running off-road into below-grade streambeds, gullies and drop-offs. Guardrails occurring just before concrete barriers the state places on either side of bridges are there to act as cushions, the first line of defense in preventing drivers from crashing into those unforgiving concrete blocks. Bennett was familiar with the building on SR-302, and admits he and his staff are mystified why, after eight years of no traffic-related damage at all, this site could suddenly sustain two accidents in the last year.
“There is no rhyme or reason to it,” he said. “That building must be 25 or 30 feet from the road, giving a driver plenty of time to self-correct.”