In the past, when topics like street safety and parking have generated concern in Millwood, the conversation is typically included on a monthly City Council agenda.
On Monday, Mayor Dan Mork and other city representatives set aside over an hour at City Hall to specifically address the rouse over roads.
The special meeting, billed as “an informal discussion,” by Mork, featured a wide range of feedback from residents, many of whom are fed up with the frequency of motorists taking shortcuts along residential streets like Fowler and Empire in an attempt to avoid traffic on major arterials such as Argonne and Trent.
Jack Bunton, who lives in the Riverway section of town, said he hoped the problems would subside after the Argonne resurfacing project wrapped up last fall – so far, Bunton has seen little improvement.
“We’re still very concerned,” he said. “This is serious stuff. We need to put up speed limit signs or do something, even if we have to fund it ourselves.”
Mork said extra police patrols will be assigned to South Riverway, Euclid, Empire Way and other residential areas beginning this week. The traffic emphasis will continue through next week.
“The council has authorized these patrols for two to three weeks a month,” Mork said.
In a meeting at City Hall in February 2009, Russ Schoen of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office reported that 26 traffic tickets were handed out as part of an emphasis patrol along Empire in September 2008. Most included infractions for speeding and running through stop signs.
The city has also set aside $8,000 for a portable radar sign that would track vehicle counts and speeds.
City Council Member Kevin Freeman said that while hiring police to keep order on municipal roads may be a good idea, the approach should include a wider range of streets.
“We don’t want to just localize to certain areas,” he said. “We’re talking about everyone’s tax dollars in town. If they’re going to patrol, they should be patrolling the entire town.”
Steve Peters was among a number of residents who voiced their support of the added enforcement. Peters called Crime Check earlier this week when two cars sped through his neighborhood. The posted speed limit along most residential streets is 20 mph.
“We need more patrols,” Peters said. “We should strategically place patrols in areas of our city that are having this problem.”
While the city has discussed traffic calming measures like roundabouts and chicanes in the past, one idea that earned more interest on Monday was installing a “rumble approach,” consisting of intentional ruts in the road, at the intersection of Empire and Fowler as a way of reminding motorists to halt at the stop sign.
The observation was also made that stop signs should be clearly visible.
Council Member Brian Ellingson pointed out that housekeeping along certain roads should take place in order to thin out foliage that mars the sight line.
Parking issues were also addressed at the meeting including areas around a pair of baseball diamonds that are particularly congested during events.
Mork said representatives of the Spokane Valley Fire Department have told City Hall they would contact law enforcement if vehicle crowding prevented emergency vehicles from getting through a particular street.
On the topic of narrow roads, City Clerk Tom Richardson pointed out that the city’s comprehensive plan dictates that residential streets carrying more between 500 to 2,000 cars a day should have sidewalks installed on at least one side of the roadway. Liberty, Euclid and Empire – which currently feature no sidewalk space – fit into this category, Richardson said.
Mork referred to the benefits of a nationwide program called “Complete Streets” which emphasizes efficient travel for all modes of transportation.
“It’s not just about moving cars,” he said. “It’s really about investing in pedestrian and bicycle safety.”