SEATAC, Wash. — After a number of deadly accidents stretching from Tukwila to Federal Way on Highway 99, police are using grant money to conduct emphasis patrols.
Part of the focus is keeping bicyclists and pedestrians safe.
It is an issue that strikes a chord for Ilene Clevenger Pichay, whose mother was hit and killed by a car on State Route 99 in February.
As Clevenger Pichay looked at family photos, she reflected on the memories that mean so much to her. She has spent more than a month and a half grieving the loss of her mother, Cholly Elopre.
"Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think how she suffered,” said Clevenger Pichay.
Elopre worked at Sea-Tac Airport. She had finished her shift and was walking to her car just after 11 p.m. on Feb. 28. Her daughter said the 61-year-old was using the crosswalk when she was struck.
"The driver of the Ford Explorer didn't even stop,” said Clevenger Pichay, adding that, according to investigators, the light-colored vehicle was possibly a 2003-2005 model.
It happened at International Boulevard and 182nd Street, an intersection that is included in a stretch of State Route 99 that the Washington Traffic Safety Commission has deemed especially dangerous.
"WSDOT crash data shows that between 2017 and 2020 there were 38 collisions with serious injuries or fatalities that involved walkers and rollers along the stretch,” said Jessie Knudsen, a program manager with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Knudsen said that is why law enforcement is honing in on that highway between Federal Way and Tukwila and has already seen plenty of violations, some from pedestrians but primarily from drivers who are speeding, not stopping at crosswalks and driving aggressively.
Officers have had an emphasis patrol in the area for nearly two weeks. In a couple of days, the emphasis will be complete, and an assessment will be done to see what else is needed along that stretch of highway.
"Their goal isn't to give out as many tickets as possible," said Knudsen. "It is really to make sure drivers are more aware of pedestrians and educate them about the laws that are designed to keep them safe."
According to Knudsen, a federal grant made the emphasis possible with $25,000 allocated to patrols for the enforcement. The project total is $117,000 and includes both a public education campaign and newly developed curriculum used in law enforcement trainings that is designed to help law enforcement officers more effectively enforce laws related to walker and roller safety.
The extra emphasis is meaningful to Elopre’s daughter.
"It is really unsafe,” said Clevenger Pichay, referring to the intersection in SeaTac.
SEIU 6, the union that represented Elopre, put a message on its social media page, honoring her life and calling for more safety measures at the intersection that other workers say concerns them too.
In addition to improvements, Clevenger Pichay is hoping for answers.
"Justice for my mom and any tips,” she said. “Just help us out to find whoever did this to my mom."
Anyone with information should call the King County Sheriff’s Office.