News

To cross or not to cross

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

A vocal group of senior citizens from The Vintage at Sequim apartments, 1009 Brackett Road, led by Andy Nilles, 90, has caught the attention of Sequim’s city government.

 

Nilles and more than 100 backers signed a petition for the city to install a crosswalk at the intersection of Brackett Road and Priest Road. They feel seniors and others put their lives in danger every time they cross to Walmart and back because no infrastructure, such as a traffic light, crosswalk and/or signage is in place to warn drivers of pedestrians.

 

“There’s no excuse for not having this fixed,” Nilles said.

 

Public Works director Paul Haines agrees the road has problems but said determining how to fix the intersection and road would take time.

 

“Brackett Road is not a safe place to be walking in the roadway,” Haines said at the March 28 city council meeting.

 

He measured the road at  19-20 feet wide, which he said is “at best a country lane.” Haines met with a large number of residents a week before the council meeting to walk with them and see their concerns. Residents said they don’t use the sidewalk near Washington Street because its elevation incline is too steep and harder to access.

 

A traffic light and crosswalk at the intersection of Washington Street and Priest Road are the closest marked crossing points for residents. But only two south, front-facing paved paths access Washington Street from the Vintage’s east side.

 

Nilles said he pointed out that Brackett Road could be widened easily and that sidewalks are ready to be installed.

 

“Someday there’s going to be an accident,” Nilles said to the city council.

 

State Patrol’s results

In available data from the Washington State Patrol, from Jan. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2010, collisions at the intersection of Washington Street and Priest Road were about even with those at Priest and Brackett’s intersection.

 

No fatalities were reported in 21 total collisions at or near the intersections. Six injuries occurred: two at the intersection of Priest and Brackett, three at Priest and Washington. Brackett Road had one injury when a vehicle struck a bicyclist.

 

Only one non-injury collision occurred in 2010 at Brackett and Priest, whereas two collisions occurred at Priest and Washington’s intersection, with one person injured.

Next steps

Haines intends to run traffic counters in the coming weeks to discover the number of cars traveling on Brackett and Priest roads, their speeds and turning movements, to best determine how to slow down vehicles.

 

“Cities are bound to do it safely,” he said. “They define the problem and then design it with techniques that are as safe as possible.”

 

He feels there are challenges in placing paint and stop signs for crosswalks.

 

“Stop signs on Priest and Brackett Road become a regulatory device. They don’t make sense. People drive through them,” Haines said.

 

If the city declares an intersection safe to cross but a pedestrian is hit, then the city could be liable, he said. Haines showed residents and city councilors a chart from the 2005 Federal Highway Administration study that reveals a marked crosswalk is about a 10-15 percent higher risk for people ages 60 and older than having no markings or a signalized crossing.
 
Possible options

In the coming weeks, city staff plan to investigate the following options:
• Fog lines to create friction, prompting people to drive more carefully
• Stop signs at Priest and Brackett roads and Ninth Avenue and Brackett
• Signage for driver awareness about pedestrians
• Closure of Brackett Road’s east entrance to discourage using the road as a through access to Priest Road

• Install speed humps

 

Haines said he met with Walmart officials, including their engineer for the new Super Walmart expansion, and they’ve expressed interest in investigating the intersection. He said whatever happens in the interim could be changed as development comes in.

 

So far, the lots between The Vintage and Priest Road have not been developed but a binding site plan is proposed for the Priest Road Center at the corner near O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.

Residents’ perspectives

Betty Handly, property manager for The Vintage at Sequim, said concerns about the intersection have been ongoing for about five years. She and Nilles drafted their petition two months ago and received signatures from residents in nearly all 118 units of the facility.

 

Virginia Huntman, a concerned advocate for the group, said she used to work at Walmart and recognized a lot of people from The Vintage using the crossing. She said there have been a number of near-misses between vehicles and pedestrians.

 

“It only takes one,” said Ken Price, maintenance supervisor for The Vintage.

 

He feels the issue affects more than just residents as he sees children, tourists and neighbors walking Brackett Road often.

 

“Once that (Super Walmart) opens, the situation is going to get worse,” Nilles said.

Pay for it

Nilles said most Vintage residents can barely afford to live, let alone pay for a road project.

 

“Donating or paying on their own wouldn’t work to fix this,” he said. “I’d chip in $5 if I was asked, but I can’t say the same for everyone else.”

 

Handly said The Vintage is affordable housing and units cost about $632 a month for one bedroom and $759 for two bedrooms, with utilities paid.

 

“We’d be thrilled if someone would pitch in since we have so many fixed incomes here,” Handly said.

 

Nilles proposed to city councilors that impact fees from the new Super Walmart pay for construction.

 

Haines said that is a possibility but any proposed project would have to go on a list with a number of other projects waiting for funding.

Small steps

City workers installed an American with Disabilities Act compliant ramp on March 31 at the west end sidewalk along Brackett at The Vintage. It formerly led to a ditch with no access point to Brackett, so residents walked directly into the street.  

 

Lee Ruiz, store manager of Sequim Walmart, had crews pick up trash and trim bushes along Brackett Road from Priest Road to The Vintage so walkers could go off the street. The store also donated 25 reflective vests to The Vintage and encouraged vendors not use Brackett.  

 

Haines feels the intersection and road issues can be worked out, but he understands patience is short.

“The good news is that at least the traffic signal is a safe alternative,” he said.

 

Handly’s concern is about being lost in the process.

 

“I just don’t want it to go into a long study and they think we lose our enthusiasm,” she said.

 

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