Wednesday, August 18, 2010
LETTER: A View Of Our Awful Traffic On Education Hill
A VIEW OF OUR AWFUL TRAFFIC ON EDUCATION HILL, by Susan Wilkins
Many years ago, the main north-south road to the top of Education had only one lane in each direction. Over the years, as more and more houses were added to the neighborhoods, the two lanes couldn’t handle all the cars going up and down the hill so the road was widened to two lanes in each direction.
Fast forward to 2008 and the City of Redmond decided that they once again wanted only one lane of traffic in each direction on 166th Avenue NE with a center turn lane.
They introduced a plan where the conversion would be done in stages. The initial construction stage would convert the 166th/104th intersection from stop-signs to traffic-lights and reduce the number of lanes from 4 to 3 between NE 98th and 104th Streets. They told us that although it wasn’t intuitive, it would be faster, safer and better for us. As an example, they told us to look at the 4-to-3 lane conversion that had been done on NE 85th Street in the downtown area. I wondered if they had been to the Post Office on NE 85th Street on a busy Saturday in December or on April 15 (tax day) and if they had noticed that traffic ground to a halt as soon as the road and parking lot got the least bit busy. In other words, their traffic engineering that they were bragging about failed under minor stress when the Post Office got busy. The city was confident that their new traffic light and 4-to-3 lane conversion on 166th Avenue NE would be great.
After enduring 5 months of construction that coincided with the start of the 2008-09 school year, and after spending $650,000 of our taxpayer money (some from a fund ironically called the “Safe Routes to School” fund) we now have TRAFFIC THAT IS WORSE THAN EVER!!! We now have a constant, steady stream of southbound morning traffic on 166th Avenue NE that never breaks because there are too many cars! In fact, it’s dangerous with cars playing “chicken” as they try to get into and out of the Redmond Junior High parking lot.
Sometimes cars slow down, stop, and wave turning traffic into the parking lot. Sometimes cars slow down but don’t intend to stop and drivers pull into their paths and nearly collide. There is a lot of swerving, frequent slamming on brakes and at least 5 near misses every morning and afternoon. It’s especially dangerous for bicyclists who can get hit by cars making left turns across oncoming traffic. (Fortunately, bike riders know not to ride along 166th when school is in session.) When events such as school dances or field trips occur and too many parents try to get into the parking lot at once, traffic overflows and jams the street. Without 2 lanes in both directions, cars must drive down the center or are stuck waiting in circular gridlock.
I checked with Tricia Thompson and Jeff Palmer at the City of Redmond’s Transportation Department and they said that the City has no plans to fix this terrible traffic mess. They both blame the traffic problems on too many parents driving their children to school. Well, that is exactly the problem – so unless they have a plan to get rid of all the schools on Education Hill, they need to figure out how to make driving on 166th Avenue NE safe. Redmond Junior High has two narrow driveways on 166th and a wide bus driveway on 104th. The driveways are interconnected but are blocked by barriers. The City should work with the school district to redesign the parking lots and the widths of the driveways to make traffic flow more quickly and SAFELY.
A more permanent solution would be for the city to use its influence to encourage the school district to provide bus transportation for students who are consistently being driven to school in cars. When the school district requests building permits, the city should require a traffic study and impact fees if the school district hasn’t taken steps to reduce the current traffic problems. The City should also require the district to mitigate any additional traffic that might occur as a result construction for additional students.
Requiring the school district to provide lots of expensive road improvements to handle the traffic that the schools generate might motivate the LWSD Transportation Department to provide adequate bus service for their students – a responsibility that they currently choose to ignore. Education Hill is a residential neighborhood but we sure don’t have residential traffic levels. The City needs to stop turning its back on this problem.
By Susan Wilkins, LWSD parent and volunteer
Video by Susan Wikins
Photo by Bob Yoder during 4:3 construction