News

Pedestrians and businesses get the break they wanted

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

After sitting in a Ford Focus and taking pictures of the intersection of South 288th Street and Pacific Highway South earlier this month, Federal Way traffic engineers came up with an alternative to building a solid median on 288th.

The solution, proposed at the City Council meeting April 20, will be a combination of a solid outer curb next to an inner curb with a break in it. The configuration of the double curb will allow drivers heading west on 288th to get into a sort of left-turn lane created by the two curbs and to turn left through the break into the Crestwood Animal Hospital or the Shell gas station.

But the solid outer curb won’t allow people to turn left heading west out of the businesses, nor will it allow patrons of the check-cashing business across the street to go left onto 288th heading east.

That was welcome news to Shell station owner Harjinder Atwal, who has agreed to move his sign to improve sight lines so drivers turning left into his gas station have a better view of what’s coming.

Randall Norstrum, who owns the animal hospital, spoke in opposition to the solid median at the council meeting.

“This (curb) makes a difference to people, with the economy the way it is. It may seem like it’s just a few inches high, but it’s a huge hurdle,” he said. “Leave a break. If there’s an accident, fill it. Let the proof be in the pudding. Why fix a problem that doesn’t exist?”

Traffic engineers agreed with that approach, recommending a six-month trial period for the double curb. If there are any accidents during that six months, the break will be filled in.

Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge and Councilman Mike Park said still had concerns about traffic safety, but Councilwoman Linda Kochmar supported the alternative.

“This is a very reasonable solution that would be very easy to change if needed,” Kochmar said.

Restoring the crosswalk that was removed from Pacific Highway at South 288th presented the council with a tougher discussion. The city has adopted certain standards of service for its roads and intersections and, according to traffic engineers, putting that crosswalk back would cause the intersection to come close to failing.

The way the intersection is now, drivers on Pacific would have to sit at a longer red light while pedestrians crossed the highway.

“Eastbound traffic is very light, so providing that much green (light) time to pedestrians costs others their green,” said traffic engineer Rick Perez. He added that traffic would back up on southbound Pacific as pedestrians made their way through the intersection.

But most of the discussion ended when council members learned the traffic lights be fixed to run on a regular cycle — with longer green times for traffic-heavy Pacific and shorter greens for sparser 288th — until a pedestrian pushes the signal button.

Once the button’s pushed, the lights would change and allow for a longer green so the pedestrian could get through the intersection. It would throw the synchronization out of whack, but the lights get back into their patterns within a few cycles, Perez said.

Councilman Eric Faison supported the plan to put in a pedestrian-activated walk signal — “I’m concerned about pedestrian safety,” he said — but also wanted a followup report “to see how traffic’s doing” once the system is in place.

Perez has issued a work order to install the pedestrian-activated signal buttons — it’s expected to cost about $10,000 — and now it’s just a matter of when King County work crews can get out to do the work, he said.

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

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