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Kenmore residents speak out about road safety, city discusses plans
More than 200 Kenmore residents attended the Kenmore City Council meeting last night to share their concern about roads amidst two crosswalk fatalities occurring within one week.
Tammy and Ben Shoop were the first to speak, bringing a large photograph of their son Caleb. The 19-year-old was hit and killed by a truck while riding his bicycle on 61st Avenue Northeast on March 18.
"I thank the council's commitment to attend to this serious manner," Ben Shoop said. "Let's band together as a community to make our citizens feel safer and to ensure nothing like this ever happens again."
Hit-and-run victim Sarah Paulson's father Brad Paulson said he believes the city council should have started prioritizing road repairs and construction years ago.
"It's unfortunate that things have to get this bad before actions start," he said. "Our streets are so dangerous and things have to change. I am more than willing to pay more taxes if it means our children are safe."
Former Kenmore City Council member John Henderson played a tape of a meeting that took place a few years ago regarding funding for projects. He said it showed the council members voted to prioritize paying for a new city council building over making road repairs.
"The issue of caring for public safety is a choice and you decided to become enamored with being economic developers rather than fix our roads," Henderson said. "Taking care of our roads should be our biggest focus."
Many of the residents speaking at the meeting mentioned they had always been nervous about the roads and wondered why it had not been a priority of the city's.
"I am sometimes shocked, sometimes frustrated and am always, always very saddened," said Marla Williams, a Kenmore resident. "This is a problem that should be resolved because there are lives we should protect."
Pedestrian and bicyclist safety has been a big issue for Kenmore. Joseph David Humphreys was struck and killed by a woman driving a truck in the 18400 block of 62nd Ave. NE on Oct. 21 of last year, not far from where Shoop was struck. City and state officials met with neighbors after the incident in October and walked the streets to see the dangers for themselves.
City Manager Rob Karlinsey said the city has been working for almost a year to repair road conditions, but funding and other issues have prevented them from being able to follow through with their ideas.
"This is not something we are against you with, we agree the roads need repairs and things need to be done to ensure safety," Kenmore Mayor David Baker said. "We are absolutely devastated by what has happened. We are taking this seriously and we care deeply about the safety of our citizens."
Safer streets for pedestrians has been an issue that Kenmore city officials have been dealing with since incorporation in 1998.
"I want to point out that with these new plans we have to improve road safety, we are continuing on a path the city council has already laid out," Karlinsey said. "We came up with a 20 year sidewalk plan, a small portion of which has already been funded."
Karlinsey pointed out the city has "aggressively" applied for various state and federal sidewalk grants over the years.
"We've had some success, but it is challenging and unfortunately takes more time then we would like," he said.
Karlinsey mentioned the sidewalks running the length of 153rd/155th from Arrowhead 84th Avenue were funded through a state grant in the mid 2000s. More recently, sidewalk grant funding success can be seen on Bothell Way and the approaching arterial avenues to Bothell Way. He said the city will soon apply for the second time to receive funding for new sidewalks on 155th Street approaching Inglemoor High School and 202nd Street approaching Kenmore Junior High School, as well as Northeast 181st Street along the Safeway area.
Karlinsey presented a short-term and long-term plan to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.
"I think that first and foremost we need to consider the economic changes and the growth that have increased traffic around our area," he said. "We need to mentally shift our focus from thinking of vehicles as main transportation to considering bicycles and pedestrians."
Short-term actions included installing pedestrian hand-carry flags at these crosswalks and replenishing those crosswalks that do have flags, re-checking street lighting at these crosswalks, installing Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons at all arterial crosswalks that have no mainline stop control and analyzing these crosswalk configurations to determine whether striping or other adjustments need to be made.
"We are going to do all we can," Karlinsey said. "But it's important to remember that the world has changed for Kenmore. Regionally, we are seeing increased traffic on our roads and in the last few years cellphone use and other technology has reduced driver attentiveness."
Kenmore Police Chief Cliff Sether said he planned on increasing police presence on Kenmore roads and operating a "zero tolerance policy" in which citizens are ticketed for any kind of illegal behavior, including enforcing pedestrian, bicycle and driver laws.
"We will work hard to elicit tickets so people will want to stop reckless driving and will pay attention," he said.
Karlinsey said the city is also looking at road conditions in their short term plan, including speed limits and channelization. City staff will evaluate channelization and striping of certain arterials, including the possibility of reducing the number of automobile lanes and creating more room for bicycles and pedestrians where volumes and conditions allow.
City staff mentioned they wanted to increase education on safe driving, driver and pedestrian attentiveness in schools and various media sources.
They cited examples, which included handing out retro-reflective arm bands at schools and events, installing educational signs around the city and promoting the fire department's bicycle and skateboard helmet and safety programs.
"We need to get the word out to everyone and all work together as a community to be safer," Karlinsey said.
Long-term, Karlinsey said the city will continue to work on implementing the sidewalk plan and will look into creating neighborhood traffic plans. With the plan, staff coordinates with neighbors, conduct speed/volume studies, and develop an implementation plan for each neighborhood with significant neighbor input. Such a program would require additional resources that are not currently identified or funded, including funding for additional staffing, community outreach, design, and installation of signage, striping and physical devices. Physical devices include roundabouts, traffic circles, speed bumps and chicanes.
Another long-term strategy officials mentioned was for the city to continue to press the state for State Route 520 tolling mitigation.
"We need to continue to beat this drum and request funding to mitigate for increased traffic volumes that we have seen in the last several years," Karlinsey said.
Kenmore resident and longtime Shoop family friend Karissa Webster approached the council, saying she and the rest of the community would be willing to pay more taxes and volunteer to help the city make the roads safer.
"Kenmore is a city that rallies," she said. "That's why we have the amazing things we have here, that's why we were voted one of the best cities to live in recently. Tell us what we can do to help and we will do it; that's just who we are."