Can vehicles and kids coexist on Dayton Street? Not with the present setup, according to the Dayton Street Safety Group, an increasingly vocal coalition comprised of Dayton Street residents and parents of children who participate in programs housed in the Frances Anderson Center.
The group’s primary concern is the speed and volume of traffic on Dayton between 9th and 6th Avenues, particularly at the drop-off zone in front of the Frances Anderson Center-based Main Street Kids child care center, located across from the intersection of 7th Avenue.
“The Frances Anderson children’s center occupies an entire block of that fast-traveling, wide-open stretch of road where hundreds of kids are dropped off and picked up daily,” explained Nancy Marsh, part of the Dayton Street Safety Group that has been pressing the City of Edmonds to address this problem for some time.
And according to the group, it isn’t just cars.
“Dayton Street is the only Edmonds Bowl street out of six (Main, Maple, Walnut, Pine and Alder) that has no stop signs, gross truck limit signs, or speed reduction [measures] from 6th Avenue South to 9th Avenue South,” Marsh continued. “Edmonds has a designated truck route established in 2017, but our city officials refuse to enforce it. Large semi-trucks frequently choose Dayton as a quick cut-through street to shorten their day. Kids and semi-trucks don’t match up.”
And a glance at a city map makes it easy to understand why Dayton is attractive to motorists.
Dayton Street offers a quick, convenient, direct route to downtown Edmonds, the ferry and the waterfront, allowing cars and delivery trucks to bypass an increasingly congested (and now often closed on weekends) Main Street.
In the past, Dayton’s rough, uneven road surface and a curbed traffic calming island at 8th Avenue helped keep traffic volumes and speeds somewhat under control.
But no longer.
With the completion of the Dayton Street Improvement Project in fall 2020, this route suddenly became more attractive. Improvements included resurfacing streets, undergrounding utilities and adding ADA curb ramps, all of which contributed to making the corridor easier to negotiate, more friendly for cars, trucks, cyclists and pedestrians, and bringing – according to the Dayton Street Safety Group – higher traffic volumes and speeds.
And this hit the group’s critical tipping point.
“The goal of our group of concerned citizens is protection for the hundreds of children who are dropped off and picked up on Dayton Street to attend preschool, Montessori school, and various other activities at the Frances Anderson Center,” Marsh stressed. “Unfortunately, after over five months of trying, we can’t seem to get the attention of Mayor Nelson, staff, or (city) council on what should be seen as a ‘First Priority’ for our community: children’s safety.”
But contrary to the group’s contention that the city has turned a deaf ear, city officials said they have heard their concerns. In March, city staff met with group representatives to discuss them, and afterward formulated at least seven measures to help address the problem. While these did not address every action requested by the group, the city said it did commit to – and is putting in place – a number of measures aimed at calming traffic and enhancing safety for children and parents.
At the meeting, the group formally outlined their issues and asked that the city take specific action. Among their requests was installation of solar-lit stop signs at the intersection of Dayton at 8th Avenue that would change that intersection into a four-way stop instead of the present two-way stop on 8th Avenue only. They also want solar-lit stop signs at 7th Avenue, making this intersection a three-way stop. There are presently no stop signs at this intersection, which is similar to the intersection of 7th and Main — a three-way stop adjacent to the drop-off zone on the opposite side of the Frances Anderson Center.
In addition, the Dayton Street group wants the city to replace the present curbless “ghost island” — installed to replace the curbed traffic circle in the middle of the 8th and Dayton intersection — with a 6-inch curbed island. The group points out that traffic can easily roll right across the ghost island and that this — combined with the smoother resurfaced street — makes Dayton “one long joy ride from 6th to 9th Avenues.”
Other requests included installation of speed humps near the Frances Anderson Center drop-off zone, restricting commercial trucks of more than 5 tons from using Dayton as a through street, and treating the drop zone as a school zone, with an enforced 20 mph speed limit.
In response, the city agreed take the following measures:
- New Child Pedestrian Safety Program – Work with the on-site program managers in the Frances Anderson Center to add an educational element to their programs about how to be a safe pedestrian.
- New Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) at crosswalks – Install pedestrian-activated RRFBs at the two north/south crosswalks at 8th Avenue, and the north/south crosswalk at 7th.
- New Radar Feedback Sign – Install a programmable radar feedback sign between the intersection of 8th Avenue and the Frances Anderson drop-off zone so it is visible to westbound (i.e., downhill) drivers
- New Pedestrian Safety Handout – Develop a handout for parents of children at the Anderson Center advising them to exercise caution when dropping off or picking up children on Dayton. This will include pre-planning suggestions regarding the side of the car that will be used for the car seat, so children will enter and exit the car seat mostly on the curb side of the vehicle.
- New Raised Pavement Markers (RPMs) – Add another ring of gold-yellow tactile bumps approximately 6 inches further from the “ghost island” circle, and in the shallow curve between the street centerline and the right side of the circle in both east and west directions. These will provide both a visual and tactile signal to drivers to divert more to the right as they approach the circle and discourage them from maintaining higher speeds through the intersection by driving over the side of the circle.
- New Sign in Center of Circle – This will have the effect of making the circle seem larger and less inviting for cars to travel over the edges of the circle. (Note that the former traffic circle had such a sign)
- New Lighting – Replace the ground-level lights at the traffic circle with new ones that will direct light specifically toward each leg of the intersection and increase nighttime visibility.
The Dayton Street Safety Group acknowledged that while “these solutions provide some value,” they “do not solve the critical safety issues of excessive speeds, abusive commercial truck usage, and traffic volumes.”
Specifically, they continue to cite the need for stop signs at both 8th and 7th Avenues, treating the drop-off zone as a school zone with a posted 20 mph limit, limiting trucks to no more than 5 gross tons, and installing signage redirecting commercial trucks to the established Edmonds truck route (see accompanying truck route map). Calling the present “ghost island” a “design flaw,” they also request that it revert to the former design with a raised curb and directional signs.
Several members of this group provided public testimony at the July 27 Edmonds City Council meeting, noting traffic volumes, child safety, the need for additional stop signs, and other concerns. Video of their comments can be viewed here (scroll to the July 27 meeting and click the video link).
According to Edmonds Public Works and Utilities Director Phil Williams, while the measures staff have promised are “taking a little longer than we’d hoped,” the city is committed to finishing the job. The crosswalk beacons and raised pavement markers are already in place, and the other measures are in the pipeline. He specifically noted that the Radar Feedback Sign is on order from a Canadian company, and while shipment has been delayed due to COVID, the company promises delivery “within the next two weeks.”
Regarding the concerns expressed about the 8th Avenue intersection, Williams points out that the new ADA curb ramps have reduced the size of the intersection, making it more difficult for large vehicles to negotiate the traffic island.
“That’s why we designed a mountable curb,” he explained. “The intersection has been shrunk down for the curb ramps, so the amount of space to negotiate the center island is reduced. We know that the smaller intersection means some large vehicles such as buses and articulated vehicles will struggle and not be able to stay around the mountable curb. But we expect anyone who can go around it will do so. I’ve watched it and seen folks mostly behaving themselves. Police have also sat there and quite honestly didn’t find anything or see what the neighbors are reporting.”
Williams went on to explain that despite the group’s assertions to the contrary, speed monitoring studies do not indicate excessive speeding on Dayton.
“We’ve conducted 11 speed studies on Dayton dating back to 2003,” he said. The current 85th percentile speeds are about 27 miles per hour along this stretch. This is pretty typical in a 25 mph zone and does not rise to the level that warrants enforcement; the 85th percentile speed would need to rise to 33 mph to trigger enforcement.”
Regarding truck traffic, Williams stressed that the city has a map showing truck haul routes, and actively works with folks who have big projects. This includes “informing them of established trucks routes and asking them to use these.”
He went on to clarify that it’s not illegal for large trucks to use Dayton if they have a delivery there, specifically referencing large Amazon trucks and the beer trucks that deliver to the Salish Sea Brewery.
Addressing the issue of additional stop signs, Williams explained that the purpose of stop signs is to control traffic flow at intersections, not to control speed. He adds that the traffic volumes at the two intersections cited by the Dayton Street Safety Group do not rise to the level that warrants additional stop signs. He further notes that while the group compares the Dayton intersections to the four-way stop at the intersection of 8th and Pine, the greater traffic levels at that intersection warranted these stop signs.
Going forward, Williams added that the city will keep an eye on the situation and monitor the effectiveness of the measures they’ve committed to once these are on the ground.
“We’ll finish what we said we’d do,” he concluded. “It’s taking a little longer than we’d hoped, but we have no plans at this point to go beyond what we’ve already committed. We want to finish it up, get some experience, and see how it works for a while. We’re always willing and ready to re-evaluate based on this experience.”
But for Nancy Marsh and the Dayton Street Safety Group, the city’s actions amount to “appeasement,” and nothing short of their full list of measures will be sufficient to provide the necessary “protection of hundreds of children…who are dropped off and picked up daily on Dangerous Dayton Street.”
Mayor Nelson’s office did not respond to My Edmonds News’ request for comment.
— By Larry Vogel