Second Avenue barrier to remain in place

Residents cite safety, but is that the real issue?
By Brian Soergel | Sep 14, 2017
Photo by: Brian Soergel Citizens got what they wanted after the city of Edmonds proposed removing a barrier on Second Avenue North, pictured at far left. The barrier will remain.

Whoever coined the old trope “You can’t fight City Hall” hasn’t been to Edmonds recently.

The city has a long history of citizen activism, from fighting building-height limits, sidewalk signs, increased density and, most recently, buffer limits on Edmonds Marsh.

Public Works Director Phil Williams knows all about it.

Last month, he proposed a conversation on a change to the north end of Second Avenue North – the next street east of Puget Sound-facing Sunset Avenue, which is one-way traveling north. And here’s where Google Maps may come in handy.

In brief, both streets terminate at Caspers Street. Second Avenue is a two-way street with a low concrete, bulb-out type barrier installed more than 20 years ago that, in theory because it only extends halfway across the road, prevents drivers from turning south onto Second from Caspers after making the turn from Sunset. If drivers want to travel along Sunset again, they must travel up to Third Avenue South and make a loop to Edmonds Street and back to Sunset.

Williams’ main concern was actually for those cars traveling west on Caspers, which is two-way from Third down to Second, where a one-way, do-not-enter sign awaits. Williams thought it worthwhile to discuss whether removing the concrete barrier would make it easier for misguided travelers to turn around and proceed on Second to get to the water views on Sunset.

That’s not going to happen.

Homeowners on both Sunset and Second packed City Council chambers Aug. 22 to politely, in most cases, explain why Williams’ proposal was a bad idea.

Glenn Safadago, a Second Avenue resident, noted that it is a beautiful street whose residents range from young families to seniors. Many people walk the street every day. His concern was one of safety, that the proposal to allow drivers to turn onto Second from Caspers would create a loop, and he feared a nonstop flow of cars.

Williams, in an interview with the Beacon, said he didn’t expect taking out the barrier would mean a return to cruising on a Sunset-and-Second loop.

“Kids who were cruising Sunset would just make that right turn on Second and go to Edmonds Street, then back to Sunset and go round and round,” he said. “This was back in the day when this is what kids did. I remember when I was 16, 17 years old. I did it, too. But it seems to have gone away as part of Americana. It’s more about texting, deciding on a place to meet and then hooking up.”

He has a different worry.

“What we’re concerned about is we have people, a couple of dozen a week actually, that come westbound on Caspers from Highway 524 (196th Street SW) and, instead of turning southbound on Third, they look ahead and see water. And so they wander down in there.

“It’s two-way all the way to Second. Then it’s one-way coming at you. And even though we have do-not-enter signs, they go right past that and make a left turn onto Sunset. And even though all the cars are pointed at them, they continue on ahead. Now that example is for people who are, let’s just say, horribly confused.”

Sally Wassall has lived on Sunset for 28 years. In addition to increased cruising, she said opening up Second to through traffic on the north end would simply be unsafe.

“Second Avenue has had all the empty lots covered with homes over the years,” she said, “so the population has increased because now there are more families with young children. There are some sidewalks, but also homes without sidewalks, so people end up walking in the street, which is a problem and safety issue.”

Williams said he understands the safety issue, but believes something else is going on at Second and Caspers.

“Now there are others, quite honestly, who are (turning onto Second) on purpose. They just don’t care. There are homeowners toward the north end of Sunset Avenue – I’m not naming names or taking addresses out there on some sort of detective mission – but I know quite a few of those cars, maybe half of them, are turning down Sunset and don’t come out the other end. I can tell that by the traffic counts.”

Both Williams and councilmembers agree that more signage is needed.

“We can make it clear that going past Second on Caspers is not an option,” Williams said. “But they do have to have some way to get back out. The answer can’t be turning around in people’s driveways or turning on dead-end streets like Cary or Hanna Park Road. They need the option to turn on Second and get themselves out of this thing they got themselves into.”

Could the reason for residents’ resistance to removing the barrier be because they simply don’t want more traffic on their street and are used to the way it is?

“I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but people on Second certainly disagreed with me,” Williams said. “It’s been that way for a long time. I think that’s the issue – change is a bitch, isn’t it? If you’re changing the way a street works, they immediately go into scared mode. They like it the way it is, and I get it. Their voices carried the day, and council decided not to change that geometry, so it’ll stay pretty much as is. And we’ll try to solve the problem just with signage. But whether that’ll fully solve the problem, I don’t know. ”


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