City of Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams provided the Edmonds City Council Tuesday with an update on the temporary Sunset Avenue Walkway, but not before Sunset Avenue residents let the council know that — from their perspective — there are still safety problems with the project
As he had done for the council earlier this summer, Williams went through traffic data and accident history collected since the temporary paving and re-striping was completed in September 2014. You can see the report here. Striping was added to the current pathway indicating shared use between pedestrians and those on wheels (bicyclists, strollers or skateboarders, for example) and to redistribute some parking spaces, which included some angled parking. The idea has been for the city to evaluate users’ feedback before pursuing additional grant money for a permanent configuration.
Before Williams began his presentation, those who live on Sunset Avenue as well as those who use the pathway offered their opinions on how the project is going.
Sunset Avenue resident Jim Wassell said speeding on the street — which has a posted speed limit of 20 MPH — is still a problem. “They still speed down Sunset,” Wassell said. “I yell at them. They ignore me.” Other problems mentioned by Wassell and others included people being unable to see when they back out of angled parking and Illegal parking along the street. “Police come down when I call 911 but they don’t ticket any cars,” he said. “I can’t understand that.”
“Between the parking and the speeding, something’s got to be fixed down there,” Wassell added. “I have almost been nailed twice by people backing out of those angled parking spaces.”
Another resident, Shirley Pauls, said her concern “continues to be safety,” noting that people tend to speed up as they go through the area of the angled parking “and that’s the worst thing they can do.”
Pauls said that she and her husband also have experienced trouble getting into and out of their driveway under the new configuration, something that Williams said that the city is working with the couple to mitigate, at least temporarily, until the demonstration project is over.
“We like the walkway, that’s not the issue,” Pauls said. “We’ve had people using Sunset for 40 years and that’s not a problem. But it is a problem to not be able to use our own driveway and to have that speeding issue going on past the parked cars.
Offering a different perspective was Mike Herb, a retired Edmonds City Councilmember who says he walks Sunset Avenue “every day and I just love it.”
“I think it’s a great design,” Herb said. “It’s much safer than it used to be for walking because street is so level.” Herb noted that prior to the paving of the walkway, he had broken his leg after losing his footing on the former grass pathway’s uneven surface. “I totally support what you have done,” he added.
As for the most recent statistics included in Tuesday’s report, which were measured in November 2014 and April and July of 2015, Williams noted that average daily traffic on the site is about 1,000 vehicles a day. “That’s pretty low volumes,” Williams said, noting that by comparison State Route 104 averages 35,000 to 40,000 vehicles daily, Olympic View Drive averages 3,600 to 4,000 a day and 76th Avenue West North of Perrinville “is a couple of thousand.”
The city also measured speeds at which people traveled at both the south and north ends of the walkway, using an “85th percentile speed,” a standard traffic engineering number that reflects the speed at which 85 percent of drivers are traveling at or below. In November, the roadway average was 26 MPH in the north and 23 MPH in the south; in April it was 23 and 21 and in July 21 and 18, Williams said. “Speeds are fairly modest, quite honestly,” Williams said.
As for accident data on Sunset Avenue, the city began on Jan. 1 2014 and measured all of 2014 and 2015 through the end of July. There were seven accidents total but five of those were outside the project area. Of the remaining two, one accident occurred in the vicinity of the angled parking area but that was before the new design was implemented. The other, farther north, was a backing accident, with someone coming out of their driveway and hitting a car traveling on Sunset, Williams said.
The city also looked at pedestrian usage along Sunset Avenue between July 20 and Aug. 19, and observed that about 80 percent of users during that month walked on the west side of Sunset while 20 percent walked on the east side.
Williams said the city would like to begin surveying people regarding their opinions on Sunset, and shared with the council a range of draft questions, including their opinions on parking, bicycle use, additional amenities like picnic tables or artwork, how they currently use it and whether the existing temporary configuration should be made permanent.
A statistically valid survey would be expensive so the city may instead look at an option like Survey Monkey, Williams said. Councilmember Kristiana Johnson suggested that the city also consider distributing the survey through local media outlets like My Edmonds News and the Edmonds Beacon.
Councilmember Lora Petso said she would prefer that the city hold a public hearing and/or public meeting to gather citizens’ input on possible changes. “There are a lot of ideas out there from people and I think it would move us closer to a final answer on this if we find a way to collect this input,” Petso said.
Williams also addressed worries from both residents and councilmembers about potential dangers from speeding and angled parking.
Many of those concerns could be addressed if the city had funding for a permanent project, Williams said. For example, traffic calming measures could be added to the street to slow speeders. In addition, “you could move that whole angle parking 3 to 5 feet further west… which would create another 3 to 5 feet of bare pavement behind it,” making it safer for people backing out, he noted.
“Angle parking in general comes with a whole list of different concerns than parallel parking does,” Williams admitted. But he reminded the council that the angled spaces were created following early discussions with Sunset Avenue users, who said they valued the angle parking so that everyone in the car could look out the window.