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Fatal bike accident qualifies Westway for traffic overhaul
The Federal Way City Council voted to approve a major traffic flow overhaul for the Westway neighborhood.
The plan would convert four roads — 23rd Avenue SW, 24th Avenue SW, SW 333rd Street and SW 334th Street — to one-way streets. The overhaul would also install two speed humps into the neighborhood, and provide for back-in angled parking in the neighborhood.
A separate agenda item, but directly related to the traffic improvement program for the neighborhood, was also approved during the council's April 16 meeting. This measure will change the speed limit throughout the neighborhood from 25 mph to 20 mph.
Included in all of this was the council's decision to exceed a $15,000 annual limit for traffic safety improvement projects, and instead spend approximately $30,000 for the project.
The death of an 8-year-old boy last summer at one of the intersections in Westway provided the necessary impetus for this improvement program.
On July 22, 2012, Wayde Rodrigues-Fale was riding a bicycle north on 24th Avenue South when he collided with a vehicle traveling east on SW 333rd Street. At the time, several Westway residents voiced concerns about the speed limits and traffic in the neighborhood.
"Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make things change, and that did occur with the fatal bicycling accident," said Rick Perez, senior traffic engineer for the city. "In particular, that fatality gained two points, (and the neighborhood) need(ed) three points minimum to qualify."
The biggest problem Perez foresees with the project is enforcement of the relatively drastic changes.
"There would be some significant enforcement necessary to ensure compliance with one-way street restrictions in order to minimize the potential for head-on collisions," Perez said. "The police department has committed to providing emphasis enforcement to help with that transition."
Perez said the city sent approximately 200 "ballots" to residents in the neighborhood, asking for input on the proposed changes. While the city received about 40 responses, Perez indicated that those who did respond favored the changes by a two-to-one margin. Those who were not in favor of the changes cited the change to one-way streets as their biggest issue.
Councilmember Susan Honda expressed her concerns over the changes, and how the neighborhood will be educated about the change. Perez deferred to Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson to explain how most of the "education" will be done.
"I would anticipate we follow a similar process that we have before with different neighborhoods where substantial changes in traffic plans (have happened)," Wilson said. "We'd use a 30-day warning period. Education materials for residents…Enforcement would be a last resort, after we have made sure that education piece occurs."
Councilmember Dini Duclos also expressed concerns on making sure the neighborhood was going to be made aware of the changes. She suggested that the homeowners association in the neighborhood go door-to-door with information on the changes, something Perez said the city would ask the homeowners association to do. Perez also indicated that signage will play a major role in the "education" component of the project, and that the city plans on installing a large number of them throughout the neighborhood.
PROPOSED TRAFFIC CHANGES IN WESTWAY: