Watch for Ice on Highway 3

The in basket: Roberta Worley wrote last fall to say,”I read about the morning accidents on Highway 3 Friday morning after Thanksgiving. “My mother had a 180-spin on Highway 3 south of Newberry Hill Road years ago,” she said. “While she no longer drives, she was a conservative driver. ‘Black ice’ forms on that stretch of highway. I do not believe there was any warning about the icy conditions on that spring morning.
Is there any such warning now?”


The in basket: Roberta Worley wrote last fall to say,”I read about the morning accidents on Highway 3 Friday morning after Thanksgiving, especially the accident involving four teenagers and one of them seriously injured. Washington State Patrol says that drivers were driving too fast for the icy conditions.
“My mother had a 180-spin on Highway 3 south of Newberry Hill Road years ago,” Roberta said. “While she no longer drives, she was a conservative driver. ‘Black ice’ forms on that stretch of highway. I do not believe there was any warning about the icy conditions on that spring morning.
“Is there any such warning now? The frequency of morning injury accidents on that stretch of highway would seem to warrant increased safety warning by the responsible highway safety jurisdiction,” she said.
I asked the state about the criteria for where “Watch of Ice” signs are placed and suggested that surely such a notorious place as Highway 3, especially at Austin Drive, would meet them.
The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic engineer for the state’s Olympic Region, says those signs aren’t being posted anymore.
Highway headquarters studied the value of the signs several years ago, he said, and concluded that “a static sign that is up all winter long is pretty much ignored.”
A higher tech sign that could sense when there is ice and flash a warning would be effective, he observed, but those would be very costly, if they even exist.
There may be a few Watch for Ice signs around, as they weren’t removed as a result of the study, just not placed any more.
That big variable message sign on southbound Highway 3 just north of Austin Drive ought to display a “watch for ice” warning on any clear cold morning, it seems to me. It doesn’t get much use for any other messages.

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