City considers streetlight and crosswalk at Illahee Middle School

Illahee Middle School is located at 36001 1st Ave. S. in Federal Way, near South 356th Street. - Courtesy of Federal Way Public Schools
Illahee Middle School is located at 36001 1st Ave. S. in Federal Way, near South 356th Street.
— image credit: Courtesy of Federal Way Public Schools

Federal Way staff and city council members discussed the possibility of installing a streetlight near Illahee Middle School to increase safety in the school zone and associated crosswalk.

The issue was brought to the attention of Parks and Recreation, Public Safety and Human Services committee chair Susan Honda by a local resident. Senior traffic engineer Rick Perez and Public Works Director Cary Roe outlined the possibilities to try and make the area safer.

Concerns were raised about inadequate lighting at the existing crosswalk at Illahee, 36001 1st Ave. S. Students are also crossing away from the existing crosswalk, Perez said in a brief presentation Oct. 8.

"There's one streetlight that's on 361st…that's not intended to light the crosswalk," he said, noting there is no mechanism to properly light the crosswalk.

Perez said the crosswalk issue is mostly driven by where parents are able to drop off their students. Children cross the street where they're dropped off, which is away from the existing crosswalk.

"(The idea is) it's not safe to cross there, and I think the notion is that having another crosswalk farther south may aid safety," Perez said. "I'm not sure I agree with that."

Councilmember and committee member Kelly Maloney asked Perez to elaborate on why he thinks an additional crosswalk may not increase safety.

"The assumption is that crosswalks always make things safer, and that depends on a variety of things," Perez replied. "First off, that it actually channels people to that crosswalk, and I don't know that the behavior that exists right now is going to change, just because you put a crosswalk someplace else. Secondly, there has to be enough (usage) that the drivers respect it. If it doesn't get used, then it doesn't help anybody."

As far as the streetlight issue at Illahee is concerned, Perez said the city would need to work with Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to get the light installed. An early cost estimate puts that project somewhere in the range of $6,000. There are funds available for that, Perez noted. Roe said that city staff was already leaning toward the installation of the light.

"We were heading in that direction with the light request itself," Roe said.

The issue of street lighting may need to be addressed more comprehensively, Perez said, referring to the fact that the city has an already existing School Zone Safety Enhancement Program — although that program only focused on signage and flashing lights for school zones.

"We didn't really address lighting in any of these. And so that's something that's new territory," he said. "There's about five schools where we didn't have any street lighting within the vicinity of the school."

Roe again reiterated the city's agreement that a streetlight should be installed at the Illahee school zone. The area around Illahee is dark during the early morning hours in the winter months.

"There's no streetlights on 1st Avenue, basically, through this segment. We think the light makes a lot of sense," he said. "I think (installing) the light at the existing crosswalk makes a lot of sense, and I'm prepared to make that decision. It's within my authority and I have the budget for it. I think it's a safety-related issue, and should make that happen."

According to Perez and Roe, the installation time on a new streetlight through PSE can be anywhere between two and six months. Roe said he'd be willing to "go up the food chain a little bit and press the safety perspective," to try and make it happen quicker.

There was no direct action taken at the Oct. 8 committee meeting, although Perez was scheduled to meet with Federal Way Public Schools representatives on Oct. 9 to discuss the issue.


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