Improvements to enhance safety for students who must walk a narrow, traffic-congested gauntlet along the north side of 236th Street Southwest to the marked crosswalk to Madrona School would be “cost prohibitive,” according to the City of Edmonds. But the finding leaves some frustrated parents up in arms.
“My son has a hearing disability and can’t hear the cars coming behind him,” says parent Keogh Singkeo. “When he walks to school in the morning, his back is to the traffic. It’s like he has a target on his back.”
As previously reported in My Edmonds News, in April 2013 the city received a $494,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation under its Safe Routes to Schools Programs. The grant was to help fund the Madrona Walkway Project, which would improve safety for school children and others walking or biking to and from Madrona School along the south side of 236th Street Southwest.
The preliminary scope of the project called for design and construction of approximately 600 feet of curb, gutter and sidewalk on the south side of 236th Street Southwest, connecting the school to Edmonds Way. The city applied for and received the grant based on these specifications.
But many students, some in the Madrona deaf student program, access the school along the north side of the street where there is no sidewalk or shoulder, forcing them to share the narrow roadway with traffic. This traffic becomes very heavy at school opening and dismissal times, and parents are concerned that it is an accident waiting to happen.
Complaints by Singkeo and other parents and the issues raised through My Edmonds News and in a public meeting held last summer prompted the city to look at adding improvements along the north side of the street to the Madrona Walkway Project. According to City of Edmonds Capital Projects Manager Ryan Hague, the city “asked its design consultants to do some conceptual design work for the installation of a sidewalk on the north side of the street.”
The consultants identified a host of what Hague called “complications,” including the need to build retaining walls and handrails, construct new storm drainage, and build additional sidewalk. “These would require an additional $400,000 above and beyond the cost of installation on the south side. The additional $400,000 makes installation on the north side cost-prohibitive so we’ve opted to move forward with installation on the south side of 236th Street Southwest,” Hague said. Construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2016.
Singkeo and other parents whose children must walk this route vehemently disagree with this approach, and feel the money would be better spent addressing safety issues on the north side of the street. However, according to Public Works Director Phil Williams, the original grant was applied for and obtained based on proposed improvements to the south side of the roadway, and the money was approved specifically to fund this project. Accordingly, the city is constrained to use the funds for this purpose and does not have the discretion to transfer it to another project, Williams said.
But some parents aren’t convinced.
“It’s a poor use of the money,” Singkeo said. “This is an example of where the city infrastructure is failing the community. Any accident that happens will reflect very poorly on the decision-makers. The city should be ashamed of itself.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel