Crowd of 200 calls for a safer U.S. 2

SULTAN – A woman stood holding pictures of mangled vehicles at a crash site.

A pastor asked people to remember a man who made a difference in many children’s lives before dying in a crash.

Many people closed their eyes for a moment to mourn crash victims in the Skykomish Valley, where each death reverberates among residents.

Get involved

The U.S. 2 Safety Coalition meets the last Monday of every month at the Sultan Community Center, 319 Main St. Its next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the center.

For more information, call Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser at 360-793-1051, ext. 223.

All came to Sultan Middle School on Tuesday night to show their pains, concerns and hopes about U.S. 2, a dangerous, congested two-lane highway.

“Everyone knows we need to make some serious updates to the highway,” U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen told a crowd of about 200 people.

The special meeting drew federal, state and local officials, including state Reps. Kirk Pearson and Dan Kristiansen, Snohomish County Councilman Dave Somers, Sheriff Rick Bart and State Patrol Chief John Batiste.

The state plans to finish a $1.3 million safety study on U.S. 2 by spring 2007. The goal is to identify ways to improve the highway over both the short- and long-term. Comments from Tuesday’s meeting will help the state present a solution, said Renee Zimmerman of the state Department of Transportation.

“If the community doesn’t want it, if people don’t want it, we don’t want it,” she said.

The 9.5-cent state gas tax increase approved in 2005 includes no improvements for U.S. 2. The U.S. 2 Safety Coalition, a grass-roots group, hopes to win $3 million in federal money in 2007 for construction projects for the highway.

In 2009, the state plans to begin widening Highway 522 from the Snohomish River bridge to U.S. 2 in Monroe. That $110 million project, funded by the gas tax increase, is expected to improve traffic on both Highway 522 and U.S. 2.

Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser has led the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition, which was created after his assistant was killed in a crash on the highway in 1997.

“I will never forget,” Walser told the audience Tuesday.

Many lives have been lost, but senseless accidents continue to occur, Walser said.

“It bothers me,” he said.

He choked up.

“You know that,” he added.

A vigil to mourn crash victims preceded the meeting Tuesday. Since 1999, the highway has claimed 40 lives in 33 accidents between Snohomish and Stevens Pass, according to the Transportation Department. Of those fatalities, 11 deaths occurred in head-on collisions.

Aaron Day, a pastor at Cascade Community Church in Monroe, asked people to remember Dick Montgomery, who died in a head-on collision on the highway in January. Montgomery and his wife had adopted and fostered 13 children while raising four of their own.

“We want this place to be safer,” Day said.

Many at the church knew crash victims, Day said.

“We can make a difference by pushing lovingly,” he said.

Cyndy Stockdale of Monroe stood with her son, Michael, holding a board with pictures of a crash scene. Her brother died in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 2 near Snohomish.

“Thomas T. Biderbost. This is our brother, son, uncle June 3, 2000, after his car accident. Let’s stop from happening!” the board read.

“When all these people are dying from the highway being unsafe, it’s time to fix it,” Stockdale said.

Stockdale said she was close to her brother.

“He was supposed to be Michael’s godfather, but he was killed when Michael was 4 months old,” she said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or

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