For the past three years, Edmonds residents Gary and Chino Shaver have been worried about the volume and speed of traffic on Caspers Street, a main thoroughfare (and also State Highway 524) that connects downtown Edmonds and the Edmonds-Kingston ferry to 196th Street Southwest in Lynnwood and points beyond.
The Shavers, who have a 7-year-old son, live in the neighborhood just north of the Edmonds United Methodist Church at 828 Caspers St. There is a crosswalk that connects that neighborhood across Caspers Street to the church, one that is often used by local middle and high school students who catch school buses that wait for them in the church parking lot.
Another frequently-used crosswalk, up the hill and further east, crosses Caspers at Hindley Lane and Brookmere Street, and is navigated by the parents and students whose children either attend Edmonds Elementary or make school bus connections to other district schools.
That is the case for the Shavers, whose son attends Madrona K-8 school a few miles away from home. While they usually drive him to the Edmonds Elementary parking lot in the morning, they often walk to the school to pick him up in the afternoon — and say that for many parents and students, crossing the street is often difficult, if not dangerous.
Those two Caspers Street crossings are among four crosswalks that the Shavers have requested be addressed through city’s 2017 traffic calming program. (See related My Edmonds News story explaining the program here.)
The Shavers moved to Edmonds from Arlington six years ago. Three years ago, Gary Shaver said, he raised the issue of Caspers Street crosswalk safety with city officials, but didn’t get much of a response. When Chino Shaver saw the recent notice in My Edmonds News regarding the traffic calming program, it inspired the Shavers to try again.
To be considered for the program, neighbors needed to submit a citizen action request and a neighborhood petition form to the city, with supporting signatures from at least eight different households in the neighborhood. The Shavers said that within a week they were able to get 23 signatures in the immediate Brookmere/Caspers neighborhood, but turned in a total of 108 signatures, 92 of those from Edmonds’ residents.
“The more we talked with people, the stories came out,” Gary Shaver said. Those stories included pedestrians hit by car mirrors. cars rear-ended as they stopped at crosswalks and many near misses, he said.
One of those who signed the petition is a neighbor of the Shavers, Angie McGuire, whose three children have to cross Caspers Street each weekday to get to school. Her two youngest children attend Edmonds Elementary while her oldest daughter catches her school bus to Meadowdale Middle School from the church parking lot.
“Even though I live within walking distance from the church, I drive my oldest daughter to the bus stop when it’s dark out because people don’t stop; they come barreling around that corner as the road turns into Caspers,” McGuire said. After dropping her daughter off on one particular morning, for example, McGuire said she was waiting to turn left on Caspers and watched as two boys stood on the north side of Caspers waiting to cross.
“Three cars sped right past them as they stood waiting; the cars didn’t see them. It’s a highway,” McGuire said. “It would have been very easy for the boys to have stepped out into the crosswalk since they had been standing there for at least 10 seconds. It’s beyond the point of being unsafe.”
Some of the out-of-neighborhood signatures on the Shavers’ petition came from Edmonds United Methodist Church members, who travel to the church by car using Caspers Street, and recently signed the Shavers’ petition between church services. The petition also has been endorsed by the church’s lead pastor, Sandy Brown.
“We’ve noticed over many years that Caspers can be a difficult street to cross, both for pedestrians and automobiles, and we’re very concerned that someone could be injured or killed while crossing this arterial,” Brown said. “It seems as though ferry traffic often makes for long streams of cars, and the lack of cross streets means a very long stretch of sidewalk between places where it’s safe to cross.”
The Children’s Center preschool is located inside the church, and Center Director Heather Bruno said that she, too, has concerns about the safety of the Caspers Street crosswalks.
“The children who attend our summer camp frequently take walking trips through Edmonds and we intentionally avoid Caspers Street and the crosswalks on it as much as possible because of the limited lines of sight, higher car speeds, the volume of traffic and the oddly placed crosswalks (right at the curve of the road) that are not very visible,” Bruno said.
In the Shavers’ Citizen Action Request form submitted to the city, the couple outlined numerous reasons why the area was suitable for traffic calming dollars. Drivers are often in a hurry to catch a ferry and don’t see pedestrians waiting to cross. Adding to the problem, the Shavers said, is dim lighting at the crosswalks, and the fact there is no warning system in place to alert drivers when pedestrians want to cross.
“This is a real and present danger,” Gary Shaver said. “Everybody knows it and the city is expecting the citizenry to just take their chances crossing it (Caspers Street).“
The Shavers suggest the placement of pole-mounted, pedestrian-activated flashing lights along with road surface-mounted flashing lights “to ensure visual attention from drivers,” along with LED street light replacements.
“I strongly support the proposal to place a lighted, signaled crosswalk on Caspers Street,” Brown said, “and hope the City of Edmonds will soon be able to provide this important safety improvement for this neighborhood.”
Bertrand Haus, the City of Edmonds Transportation Engineer who oversees the traffic calming program, said that the city is reviewing the requests and will respond to all who applied after determining whether they are eligible for further evaluation. A total of $20,000 in funding is available, he noted.
Gary Shaver said he isn’t certain if his proposal will meet the program guidelines, but even if it doesn’t, he is hopeful the effort will get the city’s attention. Concerned citizens are considering the formation of a WA524/Caspers St. Dangerous Crosswalks community safety group to build awareness and an advocacy effort that will be taken to the city council and mayor, he added.
“It’s really about slowing traffic down,” he said. “Crosswalks slow traffic down if they’re done right. It’s about safety.”
— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel