Put on the brakes with a petition


The Mirror

What started as a letter to the editor of the Federal Way Mirror may end in additional safety precautions near Green Gables Elementary School.

Some residents near the school at 32607 47th Ave. S.W. in Federal Way have noticed vehicles speeding on the street.

About one block from the school, 47th Avenue Southwest crests. If one’s vehicle is traveling north toward the school and fast enough, the crest provides ample opportunity to catch some air.

Thomas Giebel lives on the corner of Southwest 327th Place and 47th Avenue Southwest, where the road crests. After living here five years, he worries that with Green Gables Elementary at the bottom of the hill, it may not be long before a child is hurt by the speeders.

Giebel is also concerned that speeders may lose control of their vehicles and damage his property or a neighbor’s property.

The speeding seems to increase in the summer, he said. Also, even though children are not in school during the summer months, they are still at Green Gables Elementary playing basketball and soccer, among other activities, Giebel said.

Green Gable Elementary officials said they were unaware of the speeding and to their knowledge, no accidents or injuries have occurred on 47th Avenue Southwest near the school.

Several neighbors in the area confirmed that excessive speeding takes place.

Often, the speeding occurs late at night or during the summer, resident Hyang Paek said.

Earlier this month, Giebel wrote a letter to The Mirror about the problem.

He didn’t think much would come of it, and prior to writing the letter, Giebel had not talked to city officials about the speeding problem.

After the letter ran May 5, Federal Way senior traffic engineer Raid Tirhi called Giebel to inform him of options that are available to help resolve the speeding issue.

Tirhi was aware that the area in which Giebel and Paek live has had previous problems with speeders, but did not know it was still a problem, he said.

“Unfortunately, we cannot fix a problem we have not heard about,” Tirhi said.

Paek has lived on 47th Avenue Southwest for 11 years. The speeding problem is discussed among neighbors casually, Paek said. She always regarded it as something she’d just have to get used to and deal with.

This may not be the case anymore.

The Neighborhood Traffic Safety Program, or NTS, allows residents to request traffic calming devices in their neighborhoods. Tirhi informed Giebel that the city may be able to place a speed hump in the area.

He explained that the first step in requesting relief is to submit a petition for a traffic calming device.

The petition must list a specific problem area and must be signed by 10 people, preferably one of them representing Green Gables Elementary, Tirhi said. He has e-mailed a copy of the petition form to Giebel.

If Giebel collects 10 signatures, the city will then evaluate the location on 47th Avenue Southwest.

The NTS requires a number of conditions to be met. Among them, the area must have a posted speed limit that does not exceed 25 mph. Also, the NTS can only be applied to streets that have no more than two lanes.

If all conditions are met, the area will be subject to a traffic study.

Steps toward change

Four categories are considered in the study. Points are awarded based on a scale, and the maximum number of points possible is 12.5.

If three or more points are accumulated, a traffic calming device may be placed, Tirhi said. Categories are:

• Average daily traffic.

• 85th percentile speed, which is similar to average speed.

• Accidents per year in the past five years.

• Injuries per year in the last five years.

The higher the numbers in each category, the more points that will be given, Tirhi said. Also, areas near schools and parks such as 47th Avenue Southwest are awarded half of a point due to location.

The study would include the use of instruments that measure the average daily traffic and average speed of drivers in the problem area, Tirhi said. The tools remain in place 24 hours a day for seven days.

The next step in the process would be a meeting with residents to determine what devices are needed and where they should be placed, Tirhi said.

Residents within 600 feet of where construction would happen and those who use 47th Avenue Southwest as their sole access route would then vote to approve or disapprove the calming devices, Tirhi said.

At least 51 percent of people balloted must approve if the process is to proceed.

The city council would have to approve the project, he said, then the construction of the calming devices may begin.

The city, in most cases, only allots $10,000 per neighborhood per year to build traffic calming devices, Tirhi said, allowing for approximately two speed humps.

However, the city sometimes makes exceptions to this cap, he said. From start to finish, the process usually takes about one year.

“We want to make sure we resolve the entire issue for the entire project,” he said.

However, resolving the entire issue in a timely manner will mean Giebel and his neighbors should submit their petition soon, or wait until fall when students return to school.

Parents and guardians dropping children off at the school account for a portion of the traffic on 47th Avenue Southwest, and the city wants to make sure it conducts an accurate traffic study, Tirhi said.

Green Gables Elementary concludes classes for the summer on June 23.

Contact Jacinda Howard at or (253) 925-5565.

Learn more

To request a petition for traffic calming devices or view the guidelines and criteria for the Neighborhood Traffic Safety program, visit the city’s Web site at or call Raid Tirhi at (253) 835-2700.

Continuing problem

In 2002, residents near 47th Avenue Southwest petitioned for traffic calming devices, said Raid Tirhi, Federal Way senior traffic engineer.

In 2003, four speed humps were placed to the south of the school between Southwest 329th Way and Southwest 333rd Court, he said.

If a petition is submitted, NTS requirements are met and traffic calming devices are approved by residents, the devices would be placed north of 329th Way.

Usually, speed humps are constructed in pairs and are 400 to 600 feet apart, which results in an approximate steady speed of 25 mph, Tirhi said.

If a traffic study is conducted on 47th Avenue Southwest, but the area does not pass, there are other options for controlling speeders, Tirhi said.

If the city is able to determine speeding patterns at certain times of the day or night, the city can request police presence in the area during those times, he said.

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