'How many more lives must be lost?': Community pushes for safer streets after deadly Renton crash

RENTON, Wash. - Neighbors and families affected by the recent deadly car crash in Renton have voiced their concerns and are pushing for safety improvements at the intersection of 140th and 192nd, where a tragedy unfolded exactly two weeks ago.

King County leaders and officials gathered to listen and address longstanding community issues during a highly emotional meeting.

Jacqueline Robertson, a longtime resident of the area, has been advocating for safer roads since the late 1990s. She highlighted the urgent need for measures to address speeding and ensure pedestrian safety, particularly at the intersection of 140th Street.

"It has just become such an issue that I don't see it stopping unless they do put in calming measures of some sort," Robertson said.

She recalled when she petitioned for a traffic signal in the late '90s to keep elementary children safe. She claims the county said there was not enough traffic and it would impact children’s commute to school – forcing them to cross the street. Robertson's efforts gained renewed momentum following the devastating crash on March 19, which claimed the lives of Andrea Hudson, a 38-year-old mother and three children; 13-year-old Matilda Wilcoxson and her sister Eloise, 12.

The devastating incident was one of the main motivators behind the need for action, prompting community members to demand immediate solutions.

"It's just so emotional, I cannot imagine," Bobby, a community member said. "But how many more people are going to get killed before something is done."

Residents expressed frustration over the lack of previous interventions and emphasized the urgency of implementing effective safety measures.

Chace and Rivka Wilcoxson, the parents of Tilly and Eloise, emphasized the importance of structural changes and preventative measures to curb reckless behavior on the roads.

"I'm grateful that we've been able to share this experience and the layers of grief and shock. For some of us, the layers of anger and rage. and my greatest hope is just that what surfaces above all will be love for each other," Rivka Wilcoxson said.

"If there's something good that can come from this, I hope that there's change in people's hearts and in their behavior toward each other," Chace Wilcoxson said.

Neighbors shared their grief and grievances with local authorities, urging swift action to prevent further tragedies.

Washington State Representative David Hackney said, "We have to make sure that we are prepared to take action before these tragedies occur. We need to find new ways to invest in common measures to make sure that known hotspots and dangerous spots are addressed."

Prior to the meeting, Robertson presented a petition outlining potential solutions, including speed reduction measures, upgraded traffic lights, or the installation of a roundabout.

"If Shakey's can get a roundabout we can get something done too," Bobby said.

Another community member spoke before his neighbors about the growing speeding incidents saying he reported someone speeding past the area the day before the deadly crash. The following day, he and his wife learned they lost a dear friend in the wreck.

The community's call for action comes amid growing concerns about road safety in the region, with traffic-related fatalities reaching alarming levels in recent years.

King County Sheriff Cole Tindall said between July 1, 2023, and April 1, 2023, along 140th between 159th and 208th, there were 308 traffic stops. Of those, 151 citations, 91 were specifically for speeding. There's been 31 crashes in the nine-month period.

Robertson said she reached out to the health department after the Washington Traffic Safety Commission declared 2023 the deadliest on state roads.

Calming measures, like these speed radars, were put up nearly a year ago after an elderly couple was killed in 2022. A teen driver was allegedly speeding when they hit the couple.

"They really haven't solved the problem," Robertson said. "It was a temporary fix. People are still speeding. You fast-forward to March 19, those traffic signals didn't change anything. We need a permanent fix."

Sheriff Cole-TIndall assured residents of increased law enforcement efforts, including emphasis on patrols, to address speeding and ensure compliance with traffic regulations despite a lack of personnel. She pointed out that out of 800, the department is currently down 72 vacancies, which at one point was at least 130. A traffic unit was also removed from the area, something residents say worked, getting speeders to slow down hoping to avoid a traffic ticket.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn and the Roads Division announced they plan to conduct a comprehensive study to identify the most effective interventions for improving road safety in the area. The last study was in October 2022. County engineers found there is a speeding problem in the area.

While discussions are ongoing, many community members have voiced support for the installation of a roundabout, citing other communities and states where road safety has improved. The outcome of these discussions remains uncertain, but residents are hopeful tangible measures will be implemented to prevent future tragedies on Fairwood's roads.

"Our main goal is to make 140th safe," Robertson said.

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