Update: Enhancing safety for students who must cross street to Madrona School too expensive, says city

1195
11
Raymond and his sister Sarah Singkeo must walk this narrow, uneven pathway along 236th Street Southwest to access the crosswalk to Madrona School.  Raymond, a student in the Madrona deaf program, cannot hear cars approaching from behind. "I'm afraid to walk here," he says.
Raymond and his sister Sarah Singkeo must walk this narrow, uneven pathway along 236th Street Southwest to access the crosswalk to Madrona School. Raymond, a student in the Madrona deaf program, cannot hear cars approaching from behind. “I’m afraid to walk here,” he says.

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 lack of shoulder and sidewalk on the north side of 236th Street Southwest forces pedestrians to share the roadbed with vehicles, which often have to swing out across the yellow lines to avoid pedestrians.
The lack of shoulder and sidewalk on the north side of 236th Street Southwest forces pedestrians to share the roadbed with vehicles, which often have to swing out across the yellow lines to avoid pedestrians.

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.

Traffic along 236th Street Southwest gets very heavy at school opening and dismissal times, making the students' walk even more hazardous.  The problem becomes more acute in winter when motorists' visibility is impaired by rain and darkness.
Traffic along 236th Street Southwest gets very heavy at school opening and dismissal times, making the students’ walk even more hazardous. The problem becomes more acute in winter when motorists’ visibility is impaired by rain and darkness.

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

 

11 COMMENTS

    • There is a definite slope from street level down to the yard which may not be apparent in the photo. Also, on nice sunny days, walking on the grass may be appealing, but when it is rainy/muddy, there is a lot less appeal.

  1. A June 14, 2013 My Edmonds News article contains the following:

    As presently conceived, this project won’t help Raymond and others who must walk on the opposite side of the street. But according to officials at the City of Edmonds, this could change.

    “When we applied for the grant we were unaware of the safety issues on the north side of 236th Street,” said Bertrand Hauss, engineer for the City of Edmonds and project lead. “While the grant application covers improvements to the south side of 236th Street Southwest, there is nothing in the grant that constrains us to limit the project to south side. If the project costs come in below the $494,000 grant amount, remaining funds could be used for other related purposes,” he said.

    Because the Madrona Walkway project is not yet in the design phase, Edmonds Director of Public Works Phil Williams is optimistic that improvements to access on the north side of the street might be included.

    “Because this project has not yet been designed, we will have an opportunity to think through these concerns and perhaps others during the design phase of the project and make adjustments where needed to address them,” he said. “We will be working with the school district and the community as part of that process. This project is a great opportunity to provide increased margins of safety for school children and other pedestrians in the neighborhood.”

    Now the City is saying that it does not have the discretion to transfer funds to another project. Is this representation consistent with the comments from 2 years ago? The comments from 2 years ago seemed to imply there was some flexibility available.

    With this project a part of our Comprehensive Planning for such a long time (10 years or more?), why was the City “unaware of the safety issues on the north side of 236th Street” when it applied for the grant?

  2. Following is WSDOT’s 2013-15 Pedestrian and Bicycle Program project description for the Madrona Elementary Walkway Project:

    The project includes sidewalk, curb,
    gutter, drainage, curb ramps, sharrow
    markings, flashing beacon, educational
    materials and events, and emphasis
    patrols.

    Perhaps the City can provide a copy of the grant application and grant award so citizens can see how much discretion is available related to the funds.

  3. This walkway has been a top priority for at least the last two transportation planning cycles. Its good to see that it finally obtained a grant. Walkways in front of and near schools need to have a more predictable funding source than waiting for grants. The safety issues cited in this article highlight the need for durable solutions in Edmonds. Thanks for bringing the challenge to our attention.

  4. More information from the Fall 2014 Public Works & Parks and Recreation Projects discussion on the City’s website:

    236th St SW Walkway (Edmonds Way to Madrona School)

    This project is one of three Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grants that were awarded to the City of Edmonds during the 2012 grant cycle. This project will construct approximately 600 feet of curb, gutter and ADA compliant sidewalk on one side of 236th St SW from Edmonds Way to the Madrona School.

    In September of 2013, City staff selected KPG to design this project. After the 15th St SW project wrapped up design in August, 2014, KPG began data collection on this project. Conceptual design, including an analysis and recommendation of which side of the street to build the sidewalk on, will begin in October, 2014 and the job is on pace to bid out along with the 238th St SW SRTS project in Spring, 2015.

  5. The City announced on April 22, 2013 that the grant had been obtained and that construction of the Madrona Walkway Project was scheduled for summer 2014.

    Apparently the project has been delayed due to additional time needed to acquire additional Right of Way from the Edmonds School District for installation of drainage improvements.

    I have done a pretty good search for information related to this right of way acquisition and have not been able to find anything yet. If somebody has a link to the related information, I would appreciate it.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here