Saga of Getting a Turn Lane in Front of a Park

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May 19, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

What began as a tragedy 14 months ago in Gardiner, Wash., happily ends this week.

On Wednesday (May 18), the state Department of Transportation (DOT) began restriping a stretch of U.S. Highway 101 fronting Discovery Bay RV Park, where the park's former office manager, Judy Ann Cates, died in a car crash March 1, 2010, the Peninsula Daily News reported.

The special project to restripe an eastbound left-turn lane leading into the recreational vehicle park — expected to be finished today — was paid for by the park's residents, who last year raised $30,000 in Cates' memory.

“I cried this morning when I saw it,” said RV park manager Nicki Sexton, who worked closely with the park's former office manager Cates, as she looked at the project Wednesday.

Sexton was one of several park residents who had tearfully stood on the highway's edge shocked by the sight of the wreckage after Cates died.

“It took a death to do this, but God bless DOT and everyone who was involved,” Sexton said.

Turning left

Cates, a 59-year-old retired school librarian, had stopped her car to turn left into the park after a trip to the supermarket.

Her 2002 Saturn four-door was clipped on its right rear end by a vehicle that was attempting to drive around her, spinning Cates' car into the westbound lane, where it was struck from behind by a larger, fast-moving oncoming sport utility vehicle.

Cates, her car extensively crushed and compressed from behind, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Park residents last summer created a memorial garden in Cates' name near the recreation center.

Lynn Kauffman, board president for the Discovery Bay Leaseholders Association, which owns and operates the park on a hillside south of the highway overlooking the scenic bay, credited state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, who represents the 24th District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County, and Steve Bennett, transportation traffic operations engineer, for expediting the project.

“He really pushed this thing through,” Kauffman said of Van De Wege as she watched workers prepare the highway Wednesday for restriping today.

Bennett said the restriping for the Highway 101 left-turn pocket would amount to three lanes at 11 feet wide each with two 4-foot-wide shoulders.

A 100-foot left-turn pocket lane will be created in front of the RV park.

It will allow motorists to move around a vehicle waiting to drive into the park, a right-side passing move that is not legal today.

The restriping will be done on the existing surface of the highway, which will not be altered.

Almost immediately after the fatal crash, transportation workers put up yellow signs that warned of a left turn into the park ahead.

Then, the residents raised money, with donations coming from 73 people, including park residents and vendors.

During the fund drive, one resident gave $5,000, Kauffman said. A pie sale raised $1,200.

The fundraising campaign kicked off Aug. 3 and by October had generated the needed $30,000 that Transportation estimated the left-turn lane would cost, she said.

After the park's residents came up with the money and presented a check to the state, a letter of understanding was written up by Dale Severson, Transportation's Olympic Region development services engineer.

Letter of understanding

The letter said that any costs over $30,000 would be absorbed by the state and that if the project came in under the amount, the state would give the park a refund.

After Cates' death, Van De Wege; a representative of Sen. Jim Hargrove, also of the 24th District; Jefferson County Commissioner John Austin; and state Transportation engineers got together with an RV park safety committee formed in April to come up with a solution.

Those on the safety committee were Susan Thrune, Sheila Khalov, Jane Meyer, Kauffman and Klaus Hintermayr.

Kauffman lauded Van De Wege for his efforts.

“It would have been done sooner,” she said of the project, if not for a wet, cold spring.

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