Dear Pat Scott,

  • Friday, April 11, 2008 5:02pm
  • News

Dear Pat Scott,

Thank you for raising your concerns regarding pedestrian safety at the intersection of Pacific Highway South and South 312th Street. I have been asked to provide a response to your letter published April 5 in The Mirror.

The city has and will continue to be proactive in providing traffic safety improvements for pedestrians with such efforts as sidewalks and pedestrian amenities in conjunction with roadway widening projects, and the implementation of countdown pedestrian signals and accessible (audible) pedestrian signals for those with visual and hearing impairments.

The city’s current budget also has provided its share of the gas tax increase, passed by the state Legislature in 2005, to pedestrian safety improvements.

Although needs clearly surpass available revenue, the city is doing what it can to provide a more pedestrian-friendly environment within the overall context of improving our ability to move people and goods safely and efficiently.

It is within this context that the city has introduced a pilot program to add flashing yellow arrow signal indications.

Initial studies have found that the flashing yellow arrow improves driver understanding of the time that drivers may safely perform a left turn against conflicting pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Allowing the left-turn movement in these conditions reduces delay and queuing of vehicles, which in turn reduces the number of collisions and reduces fuel consumption, thus also improving air quality.

It is with these goals in mind that we have implemented the flashing yellow arrow indications on South 312th Street at Pacific Highway South.

Historically, left-turn movements have only been allowed at this intersection when no other conflicting pedestrian and vehicular traffic was allowed to move. This restriction has created some issues with rear-end collisions and queuing, blocking high-volume driveways, which in turn spawns right-angle collisions at these driveways.

As with any signal indication that allows left-turn movements against conflicting pedestrian and vehicular traffic, the flashing yellow arrow has the potential to increase pedestrian exposure to conflicts with left-turning traffic.

Although we cannot eliminate all collision potential, we will pursue strategies that minimize both the number and the severity of collisions overall.

Since this is a pilot program for the city, we will be monitoring the performance of the intersection, and may make changes based on feedback from citizens like you, as well as delay and collision data.

Modifications that we might consider could include additional signing to help educate drivers to yield to pedestrians, suppression of the flashing yellow arrow indication when a conflicting pedestrian signal is active, or even complete removal of the flashing yellow arrow at this location due to its relatively high volume of pedestrians.

Regardless of the outcome, we want to assure you that we take seriously our role in improving safety and mobility for pedestrians in Federal Way, and do what we can within the resources allocated.

In addition, I will request that the police department provide emphasis enforcement and education at this location to improve driver compliance with yielding appropriately to pedestrian crossings per state law.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (253) 835-2740 or

Rick Perez is Federal Way’s traffic engineer.

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