News

They're beating city hall -- maybe

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Councilman Jim Ferrell might have bought some time for opponents of a solid median at Pacific Highway South and South 288th Street, though city officials are being careful not to give the impression the median will definitely get a break.

But while they remain skeptical of the median break, officials do seem interested in restoring a crosswalk after residents begged the city to keep it.

Marie Adair, an elderly bus rider who was hit by a car several years ago and has been paralyzed on her left side since, said the goal of the Pacific improvements — which include the work at the intersection of South 288th — was to ensure the efficient movement of traffic and goods. “I propose that goes for people on buses,” she said.

She said the traffic signal at Pacific and South 288th barely gives her time to cross the street. She added she’s fallen several times trying to navigate her shopping cart, which she uses as a walking aid, through the construction.

“I know the signals are speeded up because I used to be able to cross all four lanes before the lights changed,” she said. “Pedestrian safety is seriously compromised.”

As part of the project –– which includes widening the road and adding curbs, gutters, sidewalks and lighting, among other things –– the city removed the crosswalk and plans to install a solid median preventing left turns from Pacific onto South 288th and into the driveways of a Shell gas station and the Crestwood Animal Clinic.

Owners of both businesse, plus residents living in neighborhoods on South 288th, asked the city not to install the solid median. Gas station owner Harjinder Atwal said he expected to lose up to half his business when people realize they can’t turn left into his station.

Atwal submitted a petition. Ferrell reviewed it and said he was surprised to see 738 signatures from “members of our community” opposed to the solid median.

“For us, this is an agenda option that will be gone in five minutes,” he said at the City Council meeting last Tuesday. “For them, it’s their business that would be going under.”

He asked the council to put off a decision for another two weeks to see if city traffic engineers could come up with alternatives that would satisfy safety concerns.

Council members agreed to postpone it one more meeting — officials said a two-week wait wouldn’t delay any construction or work on the site — to allow engineers time to gather information on alternatives that might improve safety without installing a solid median.

The council will hear the issue again April 20. In addition, the solid median has been separated from the crosswalk issue, and council will vote on how to proceed with each separately.

Engineers have said solid medians are necessary since the city installed extra lanes on Pacific which require drivers turning left to dash through extra lanes of traffic.

Councilman Jack Dovey said it’s a tough call.

“It’s hard when you have to weigh public safety and the welfare of business, because they don’t always coincide,” he said. “We have a public safety issue if people try to turn left into that cut and there’s a collision. If we’re putting our city at risk and there’s a collision and the city knew about the danger, I couldn’t support it.”

Dovey said improved traffic safety and efficiency was the reason the city undertook the improvements on Pacific in the first place.

“If we don’t move on this and something happens at that intersection, we haven’t done our job,” he said. “I know there’s 738 people (who signed the petition), but we have to balance what’s good for 83,000.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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