Traffic hazards concern Belmor Park residents

"Jake Zodrow's confidence took as much of a hit as his car in a recent collision. About two weeks ago, the 81-year-old man drove his 1997 Mercedes out the entrance of the Belmor Park mobile home community As he turned left, his car was smashed by a car heading eastbound - to the tune of $10,000 in damage. Zodrow suffered no serious injuries, but wonders if he'll be too shaky to drive again once his car is repaired. He's just as concerned about other Belmor Park residents, all of whom are 55 or older, attempting to turn left from the park's entrance onto 324th Street and not making it.Of one thing he's certain. It'll happen again, Zodrow says. It's bound to happen again.Zodrow and other residents of Belmor Park say traffic on 324th Street has increased during the last few years - especially during the morning and evening commutes. Traffic swells as people drive to and from the Federal Way 320th Park & Ride, or take a shortcut to avoid traffic on 320th Street.Traffic is bad, Zodrow said. It's almost unreal.And residents worry that the construction that recently began to widen the intersection of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South, one of the city's busiest intersections, will take the traffic on 324th Street from bad to worse.The project, which should be completed by Thanksgiving, will add two, left-turn lanes onto Pacific Highway and one right turn lane. Federal Way traffic engineer Rick Perez has recommended drivers take an alternate route or expect delays.Belmor Park resident Ralph Bullock and other residents say many motorists wanting to avoid construction delays will probably take 324th Street as their alternative route. Bullock believes he's already seen an increase since the project began. It's tough enough, Bullock said. You've got that blind curve to the right. Those people come flying around that and here's an old person doing 20 and pulling in front of them.Public Works Director Cary Roe agrees the use of 324th Street has increased. He attributes that to a boost in the number of drivers using the Park & Ride or taking the street to get to Pacific Highway. The construction of Celebration Park, with its entrance is on 324th Street, also has increased traffic, Roe said.Belmor Park representatives have asked the city to consider installing a traffic signal before. But the factors the city weighs in determining whether one is justified have never proven a need. The city considered everything from the number of accidents that occur there to the number of pedestrians who cross the street. At some point, increased traffic due to a growing population, more businesses in the downtown and the increase in Celebration Park as an attraction might lead the city to consider installing a pedestrian-activated crosswalk or traffic signal there, Roe said. Based on our current knowledge of speed, volume, accidents and pedestrians making the crossing from the south side to the north side, there doesn't appear to be an immediate problem, Roe said.But Roe encourages Belmor Park residents to correct city staff if they believe the staff is wrong.Obviously we don't sit there on a daily basis, he said. They have a sense of that. Zodrow says he does indeed. He was headed to Safeway to buy groceries when his collision occurred. A car that sped around a trailer stalled in the right lane of eastbound traffic struck Zodrow's car as he was midway through his turn. Zodrow said he didn't see the car as he pulled out of Belmor Park.Zodrow, who's been without a car since the collision, knows firsthand that it's as tough crossing 324th Street on foot as it is in a car.You've got to be darned careful to save your own life, he said. Everybody at a certain time of day is breaking the speed limit.A crosswalk is painted across 324th at Belmor Park's entrance and yellow warning signs indicate people in wheelchairs cross there. But neither safety feature reassures most walkers.At night, a resident who uses a wheelchair returns home from work and must use the crosswalk, Bullock said. The park's guard stops traffic for her so she can cross safely.Don Buss, 85, who's lived at the park 32 years, says he understands why the woman wouldn't trust the crosswalk to be sufficient for a safe passage.Cars will not stop, Buss said. Some will stop but a lot will not stop just because someone's in that crosswalk. They're in a big hurry to catch the bus or in a big hurry to get home. I would personally hesitate to cross the street. They'll get you.Federal Way police have conducted radar checks on 324th Street and cited dozens of drivers for speeding, for which Belmor Park resident say they're grateful. But occasional speed checks don't curb the daily problem of people driving faster than the posted 30 mph limit.Belmor Park say that, at the lest, the city should install a pedestrian-activated crosswalk, similar to one that enables walkers and bikers to cross First Avenue safely when they're on the BPA Trail.But some residents, including 93-year-old Angus McDonald, are skeptical of that happening.The (city) council has lots of problems, McDonald said. This would minor for them, I'm sure. But it's getting major for us.------------------------More traffic slowdowns aheadWhile construction continues at the intersection of 320th Street and Pacific Highway, one lane either westbound or eastbound on 320th will likely be closed and two lanes will continue to flow in the other direction. Traffic being restricted to one lane in each direction is the very worst scenario and won't occur often, said Cary Roe, the city's public works director.Today, Thursday and possibly on Friday, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, the intersection will be closed for work that will require construction equipment to cross the roads, Roe said. Traffic will be routed around the intersection.Next week, Belmor Mobile Home Park residents will be even more directly affected by construction. For up to three days and three nights, 324th Street will be closed while crews lay pipe and a temporary asphalt layer as part of the stormwater detention pond project at SeaTac Mall, Roe said. Belmor residents will not be able to access the community from the west side, but will instead have to turn onto 324th from the 320th side.We want to get in and get out, Roe said.Later, crews will pour the permanent asphalt over the area where they laid the pipe. That work won't require that the entire road be closed, but just a lane or two, Roe said. "

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