Effort would name U.S. 12 overpass for fallen deputy

Michael Estes died after a wreck while responding to a call in 2007 at State Route 124 and U.S. Highway 12.

This rendering shows planned roundabouts, bridges and interchanges planned for U.S. Highway 12 in Burbank. Construction in the area is officially under way.

This rendering shows planned roundabouts, bridges and interchanges planned for U.S. Highway 12 in Burbank. Construction in the area is officially under way. Image courtesy of Washington state Department of Transportation

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BURBANK — An overpass constructed to improve safety along U.S. Highway 12 could serve also as a memorial to a fallen deputy.

The Port of Walla Walla wants to rename the overpass at U.S. Highway 12 and State Route 124 in honor of the late Michael Estes, a Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed after a crash at the intersection in 2007.

Commissioners Mike Fredrickson and Paul Schneidmiller will consider authorizing a request to the Washington State Transportation Commission to rename the overpass during the Port’s 6 p.m. meeting Thursday at the agency’s administrative office, 310 A St. Commissioner Ron Dunning will be absent from the meeting.

The two commissioners who will be in attendance said this morning they plan to support the initiative.

“I think it highlights the overall project and salutes a man who gave his life in service to the county,” Fredrickson said.

“We just feel it’s the right thing to do in honor of a deputy who lost his life at that intersection,” Schneidmiller added.

In a 12-year period, six people had been killed on that stretch of highway and 56 were injured.

“Tragedies that were needless — and now we have the ability to go over the highway,” Fredrickson said.

Estes was responding to a 911 hangup call with his lights flashing when his patrol car was struck on the passenger side by a commercial flatbed truck at the intersection. He died eight days later on Feb. 14. He was 43 and the only Walla Walla deputy to lose his life in the line of duty.

His death punctuated the significance of the $22.2 million construction that replaced two stoplights on Highway 12 — one at Humorist Road and the other at the State Route 124 intersection — with overpasses. The work was part of the ongoing four-laning of the highway spearheaded by the U.S. Highway 12 Coalition.

Naming or renaming state transportation facilities is a stringent process with numerous guidelines. Walla Walla resident Anney Haley is one of the seven representatives on the state commission.

The memorial tribute has support from Walla Walla’s legislative delegation who have given “wholehearted support” in a letter to the commission.

“We believe Michael’s significant contributions tot he well-being of our state and nation through his service in the Army, National Guard, and as a police officer make him more than deserving of being honored by having this overpass named after him,” reads a letter from Sen. Mike Hewitt, and 16th District Reps. Maureen Walsh and Terry Nealey.

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