Cowlitz Co. residents voice frustration over Hwy 503 closure at - KPTV - FOX 12

Cowlitz Co. residents voice frustration over Hwy 503 closure at community meeting

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COWLITZ COUNTY, WA (KPTV) -

A landslide that closed down Highway 503 about two weeks ago has been cleaned up, but now communities in nearby towns are facing another problem - a loose boulder that sits on top of that slide.

At this point, drivers in Washington that take Highway 503 are looking at nothing but detours.

The Washington Department of Transportation says it's going to take time to remove the boulder, but it's that time that seems to be cutting into the lives of others.

On Tuesday night, a meeting was held where drivers could voice their frustration with the closure.

Highway 503 is known as the main highway for many who live in areas like Ariel, Cougar and Yale.

While it has been closed over the last few weeks, many residents have had to take detours around Lake Merwin that they say tacks on anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. 

Residents say they understand safety concerns but are now worried about daily life.

For example, the fire department is now split. Firefighters that are on one side of the closure can't get to the other without having to take a detour.

Residents also say businesses in places like Cougar that aren't getting the traffic they are used to. They say the bottom line is that things need to change.

"Things that were 15 minutes away are now an hour away. When our kids get on the bus, they're on there for more than an hour and a half, and they get there when the bell rings and they miss breakfast," said Mariah Reese. "We choose to live in a rural area but we are also taxpayers too."

FOX 12 spoke to the public information officer from the Department of Transportation and she says they will work on making detour signs more clear so people know what businesses along the highway are still open, and they plan to move quickly but safely to remove the boulder.

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