Nightmare on Pine Street in Edmonds?

Neighbors say the City of Edmonds isn’t doing enough to address safety issues on their street; City officials disagree
By Brian Soergel | Aug 30, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel Linda Niemi and Jim Carroll, at the top of Pine Street, are appreciative but not satisfied with the City of Edmonds’ plans to increase safety on their street.

Jim Carroll and Linda Niemi live a block apart from each other on Pine Street, which drops from the top of Edmonds Bowl on Ninth Avenue South and continues to busy SR 104.

They aren’t afraid to make some noise.

They spoke about safety issues on their street at a City Council meeting in May and again in July, when city officials gathered to meet with neighbors and listen to their concerns.

The overriding issues?

Speeders. Cars and even big-rigs running stop signs. Visitors whose GPS tells them Pine is a shortcut to the ferry line. Traffic, just too much traffic.

After July’s meeting, Public Works Director Phil Williams told the more than 20 participants that the city would study the issue further and come back with any recommendations.

But Carroll and Niemi probably guessed that the city’s recommendations wouldn’t be enough, as Williams and others from the city – including Traffic Engineer Bertrand Hauss – both pointed to studies showing Pine Street’s issues aren’t significantly different than comparable Edmonds streets.

To refresh: The section of Pine Street Carroll and Niemi are worried about runs between Ninth in the east to about Sixth in the west. From the steep eastern section downhill, there are four stop signs.

And between 7th and A Avenue South, the road squeezes into a one-block section residents call “the choke point.”

According to Williams, Pine is classified as a “local” street between Ninth and Third, which is the section residents are concerned about. It is a principal arterial between Third and SR 104 as that portion is part of the state highway system.

But many Pine residents, including Carroll and Niemi, tend to classify their street as more of a collector in that many driving westbound on 220th Street SW turn right on Ninth and left on Pine, to reach SR 104 and queue in the ferry line.

Commuters take this route, Carroll said, because many GPS systems track multiple options to the ferry instead of directing travelers to SR 104, which is the city and state’s preferred route.

Nevertheless, Williams pointed to Pine Street studies conducted over the years that show it meets what traffic engineers call the “85th percentile.”

In other words, using data collected from pneumatic tubes stretched over the road, 85 percent of the more than 1,000 cars traveling on Pine were at or below the posted 25 mph speed limit. Speeding, Williams said, using nationally recognized standards, would be 8 mph over the limit, or 33 mph.

“So if the 85th percentile is 33 mph or less, we consider that reasonable compliance with the law,” he told the group, adding that that number dropped to 28 mph in a 2015 study.

The most recent speed studies, this year, were completed on Pine Street – one between Third and Fifth, and the other between Sixth and Seventh – and both confirmed the 85th percentile.

Edmonds Police traffic Officer Kraig Strum, who attended last month’s meeting along with Police Chief Al Compaan, said that there is not a high volume of collisions on Pine Street.

“Over the past few months, I’ve spent some time out there, as have other officers, and what we see is in line with what the data is showing,” he said. “I haven’t noticed a lot of the issues. That’s not to say people aren’t running stop signs, but the data isn’t supporting a lot of speeding.”

Taking the studies and neighbors’ concerns into account, here is what Hauss said the City is going to do over the next few months (capital letters are from the City):

  • Add "EDMONDS FERRY TERMINAL" directional sign for westbound traffic on 220th Street SW with LEFT TURN ARROW (220th St. SW at Ninth Avenue South) and another for southbound traffic on 100th Avenue West with RIGHT TURN ARROW (SR-104 at 100th Avenue West);
  • Pine Street at Seventh Avenue South: Add red flashing beacons above two existing STOP signs on Pine Street approaches only; and widen STOP BARS (where cars are expected to stop) to make them wider and more visible;
  • Pine Street at Sixth Avenue South (T-intersection directly north of Pine Street Park): Add pavement markings prior to STOP BARS; and widen STOP BARS;
  • Add reflective tape on advisory/regulatory sign posts (speed limit/SLOW signs), in order to improve nighttime sign visibility;
  • Trim vegetation in front of all traffic signs within this alignment. Letters will be sent out to property owners where this applies since it's their responsibility to manage vegetation adjacent to their property (based on Section 9.25.010 from Edmonds City Code);
  • Ongoing enforcement efforts by Edmonds PD will continue.

“After these items have been completed, the City will periodically monitor how driver behaviors are affected,” Hauss said in an email to Pine Street residents who attended the July meeting and gave their email addresses.

“We are very sure you will be doing the same. If additional measures are called for to meet an acceptable level of compliance, we will respond accordingly.”

The Beacon spoke to Carroll and Niemi over the weekend at the top of Pine Street, where they pointed out trouble spots on the road. During the interview, a car sped down Pine and through the stop sign at Eighth. Further down the street, in the choke-point block, a neighbor yelled at the driver; after the driver left, he placed a traffic cone a few feet away from his curb in an attempt to get drivers to slow down.

Carroll – who said he’s concerned about his two young children and has contemplating moving – appreciates what the City is doing.

“But I will not be satisfied,” he said, “until the City of Edmonds reduces cut-through to Washington State Ferries. I have very little faith that what the City is proposing is going to modify or make any adjustments to people’s driving habits.”

Niemi agreed.

“There are already stop signs at Sixth and Pine,” she said. “That’s the one that most people run. They slow down, and off they go. I believe we can solve this problem. But what’s holding us back is that the City doesn’t want to solve the problem. They want to work on housing issues, businesses, tourism. But we’re the taxpayers, and I know next year they’ll be coming up for election.”

Williams said that street safety is always a priority for his staff, which is working to address the concerns of residents.

"We have been listening to the concerns of residents in this neighborhood, meeting with them in person, and gathering information,” Williams said. “We have studied the issue to determine the appropriate response, and we are now taking positive steps to address their concerns."

Both Carroll and Niemi said they believe, along with neighbors, that the primary cause of the traffic is due to GPS systems showing drivers the shortest route to the ferry, as well as the new spray pad at City Park.

“The Pine Street route to the ferry used to be a pretty closely kept secret,” Carroll said, “but the cat is out of the bag now.”

Carroll has his own ideas on how to slow traffic and make Pine Street safer, which he shared with city leaders.

His options include blocking Pine Street at Sixth Avenue South, create a one-way street, installing traffic-calming circles at Sixth, Seventh and Eighth avenues, or reducing the speed limit to 15 or 20 miles an hour.

Carroll said he and his neighbors will certainly monitor the city’s attempts to make Pine Street safer.

“The best preventative to date has been Edmonds PD enforcement. The occasional presence and issuing of traffic infractions has greatly improved the traffic atmosphere. I am impressed with the Transportation Department’s sense of urgency and hope that this is the beginning of a bigger plan.

“As our city grows, leadership needs to do more to protect our neighborhoods. The focal point tends to be business and tourism, without any foresight towards how to manage the traffic it will bring in.

“I think the City did what they could within their budget with the idea of whether or not we will see results. They did not specifically address traffic volumes and speed.”

 

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