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City of Mill Creek may improve 132nd Street SE pedestrian crossing safety

At their May 14, 2019, meeting, the Mill Creek City Council authorized the city manager to take a step in improving the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists who cross 132nd Street SE mid-block at Thomas Lake Center.  They authorized the city manager to confirm the scope, budget, and schedule for construction of a signalized crosswalk near Thomas Lake Center, which will result in a $750,000 grant award from the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Aerial photo of proposed signalized crosswalk location. Image courtesy of City of Mill Creek.

By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.

At their May 14, 2019, meeting, the Mill Creek City Council authorized the city manager to take a step in improving the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists who cross 132nd Street SE mid-block at Thomas Lake Center.

They authorized the city manager to confirm the scope, budget, and schedule for construction of a signalized crosswalk near Thomas Lake Center, which will result in a $750,000 grant award from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

This is only one step in this project. The city council can still vote not to accept the grant award if they decide the project is not worthwhile.

Background

132nd Street SE, also known as State Route 96, runs east/west and is the major connection between southeastern Snohomish County residents and Interstate 5.

The area along 132nd Street SE has grown significantly in the last twenty years and is now a mixture of residential and commercial uses, where it was once mostly commercial.

The portion of 132nd Street SE near Thomas Lake Center is four lanes wide with left and right turn lanes. Approximately 35,000 vehicles per day used the road at this location in 2015.

A significant number of residents now live on the north side of 132nd Street SE at Thomas Lake Center outside city limits. The City of Mill Creek has many commercial developments on the south side of the road.

These residents often decide to cross the busy street in mid-block, rather than walk several hundred feet or several hundred yards to crosswalks.

Mill Creek Director of Public Works and Community Services Gina Hortillosa gave the city council an overview of the situation at their October 8, 2018, meeting.

She said that according to Washington State Department of Transportation data, 13 pedestrians made this choice just west of 35th Avenue SE on one October 2017 evening.

She went on to say this unsafe practice resulted in at least five pedestrian/vehicle crashes on the road from January 2017 to October 2018. Two of these crashes resulted in serious injuries.

In the spring of 2018, the City of Mill Creek submitted two grant applications to the Washington State Department of Transportation for installing a signalized crosswalk at this location to improve safety.

This crosswalk project is part of Mill Creek’s 2019-2012 Capital Improvement Plan that was approved by the city council in 2018.

May 14, 2019, City Council Meeting Discussion

At their May 14, 2019, meeting Hortillosa told the city council that the city received advanced notice of a potential funding award of $750,000 from the state based on the grant applications. She went on to say that the city will have to provide a $75,000 match in order to receive the grant.

In the notification, the Department of Transportation asked the city to confirm the project’s budget, scope, and schedule by Friday, May 17th.

Hortillosa told the city council that although some maintenance responsibility of 132nd Street SE belongs to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the City of Mill Creek is responsible for the entire road from sidewalk to sidewalk.

She went on to say that the proposed crosswalk will not be equidistant between the signalized intersections at 35th Avenue SE and 25th Avenue SE. Its proposed location is 800 feet from the signalized intersection and crosswalk at 35th Avenue SE, which is the spot where many jaywalkers now cross the road.

Councilmember Vince Cavaleri said he disagreed with this choice of location because it seemed to be too close to the existing 35th Avenue SE crosswalk. He said he preferred a spot closer to 25th Avenue SE.

Police Chief Greg Elwin countered by saying that the proposed crosswalk location is optimal for reducing automobile/pedestrian/bicycle accidents at this spot.

Hortillosa said that she has lived in the area for sixteen years, and for the first time last week saw someone pushing a wheelchair jaywalking at this location. She went on to say that some people may not be able to navigate the 800 feet to 35th Avenue SE.

According to Hortillosa, the new crosswalk will be activated by pushbuttons on either side of the road and synchronized with the traffic lights at the signalized intersections so traffic interruptions are minimized.

She went on to say that Snohomish County is not willing to participate financially in the project and will only provide design review services.

After an extensive discussion, the City Council authorized City Manager Michael Ciaravino to make the project confirmation to the Department of Transportation by a vote of six for and one against.

Mayor Pam Pruitt was the lone dissenter. She said that her conversations with Snohomish County public works personnel led her to believe that the new crosswalk wouldn’t be effective.

This is only one step in this project. The city council can still vote not to accept the grant award if they decide the project is not worthwhile.

If they decide to continue with the project, the new signalized pedestrian crossing is scheduled to be open in June 2021.

At their May 14, 2019, meeting, the Mill Creek City Council authorized the city manager to take a step in improving the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists who cross 132nd Street SE mid-block at Thomas Lake Center.  They authorized the city manager to confirm the scope, budget, and schedule for construction of a signalized crosswalk near Thomas Lake Center, which will result in a $750,000 grant award from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Aerial photo of proposed signalized crosswalk location. Image courtesy of City of Mill Creek.

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Comments

Overpass would be better

This is a state highway. We do not need to slow down the heavy traffic on this highway even more for people that are too lazy to walk to the crosswalk at 35th. If something MUST be built, then a pedestrian overpass would be more logical. But I wouldn't waste the money. 

So there will be be traffic interruptions ...

Minimize the interruptions with an overhead crosswalk.

As far as that goes, why not reduce the speed along Seattle Hill road all the way to 132nd St to reduce the street noise for the Mill Creek residents along that part of Seattle Hill Road to match the speed limit farther West.  That would seem to be fair to me.  The noise problem is just as severe and the people are also residents of Mill Creek.  It might also reduce the numbe of people who want to speed on that section as well.  Straighter and flatter sure did not slow people down even a little bit.

And to keep the same pattern, why not 35th Ave.

Probably a problem with Hwy 96 and Bothell-Everett Hwy, but why not make everybody's life an equal commute time problem?

Jaywalking is no excuse

The issue is only present if there are jaywalkers who can't be bothered to walk to an intersection, otherwise there is no issue. Becuase people choose to jaywalk and cause their own problems should not be a factor in deciding to add a crosswalk.

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