Safety changes are planned for a portion of Highway 97 in the lower Yakima Valley and the work starts next week. On Wednesday a groundbreaking ceremony was held at Highway 97 and McDonald Road near Toppenish where the work to install a roundabout will get underway on Wednesday.


The improvements including the roundabout are all about saving lives. State officials say Highway 97 is dangerous for drivers and pedestrians. In fact the Washington State Department of Transportation say the area of Highway 97 that passes through the Yakama reservation has the highest pedestrian fatality and collision rate in the state of Washington.
That's why the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Yakama Nation have been working together over the last year to improve both pedestrian and driver safety along the highway through planning, design and community engagement. One of the things that has come out of the talks about improving safety is a plan to install two roundabouts on the Highway that could reduce serious crashes.


The Construction will start Wednesday on a roundabout at US 97 at McDonald/Becker road. After that work is complete another roundabout is planned for US 97 and Jones Road. The $3 million project is expected to be completed this fall. During construction traffic will be limited to one lane in the project area with minor delays in traffic.

A press release says roundabouts "are a preferred alternative to standard four-way and stoplight-controlled intersections because they eliminate head on and T-bone collisions, reduce speeds to 20 mph, reduce severity of crashes and reduce conflict points by 75%."

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