Along with the changing tint of deciduous trees, autumn will bring a series of safety improvements to several neighborhood streets in Millwood.
At a special meeting last week, the City Council decided to move ahead with the upgrades after hearing a presentation from Matt Gillis of Welch/Comer Engineers, a Coeur d’Alene based company that has collaborated with the city on a number of road projects, including the resurfacing of Argonne last summer.
The project – which will include an elevated intersection at the junction of Fowler and Empire Way and a pair of speed humps on South Riverway – is intended to address motorists who cut across main arterials like Trent and Argonne, often exceeding the speed limit and causing safety concerns for residents like Jeannie Pearson who has lived on Fowler for the past 24 years. Pearson has spoken at City Hall on several occasions about the need to safeguard Fowler and its neighboring road, Empire Way. In May 2008, a driver destroyed a chainlink fence and damaged Pearson’s front yard while barreling down the street.
“We’ve talked a lot about this,” said Millwood Mayor Dan Mork at the Sept. 22 meeting. “We’ve talked about roundabouts, dips, rumble strips and chicanes. Now we’re moving toward actually implementing something.”
The discussion over how to improve safety on residential streets has been the topic at numerous City Council meetings as well as special gatherings at City Hall over the past two years. Representatives from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Department of Transportation and Spokane County Engineering Department have contributed to the conversation. Mork has dedicated part of the city budget to certain provisions, such as traffic emphasis patrols and a new speed radar sign that was purchased this summer.
In May, Mork called a special meeting to hear concerns from residents affected by the speeding traffic. Jack Bunton, who lives on South Riverway, was one attendee who didn’t’ mince words.
“This is serious stuff,” Bunton said. “We need to put up speed limit signs or do something, even if we have to fund it ourselves.”
Rumble strips were ruled out by Millwood leaders partly due to concern about noise, but primarily because the grated surface is rendered mostly ineffective after a snowfall of any magnitude. Roundabouts were discussed, but Mork echoed the reservations of the City Council when he described them as “expensive and taking up too much space.”
The raised intersection at Empire and Fowler – similar to those found on Fourth Avenue in Coeur d’Alene and in Browne’s Addition – will represent a compromise. The buildup of asphalt will create a tableau reminding motorists to make a complete stop, Gillis said.
“The idea is to let people know there’s something there – that they need to stop,” he said.
Council members agreed that additional signage should be a part of any change, warning drivers as they approach alterations on the street. Earlier this year, the city purchased a radar sign that tracks speeds and keeps a traffic count. The portable machine has been rotated to various areas around town and shown effectiveness in slowing traffic, Mork said.
Gillis also mentioned that Welch/Comer is nearing completion of a draft document requested by the city to codify citizen concerns regarding municipal streets. The approach, patterned after a program in Hayden Lake, is meant to streamline resident feedback in a manner that helps city leaders evaluate and implement safety improvements.
Mork said the additions to Fowler, Empire and South Riverway are part of an ongoing commitment by the city to secure Millwood streets. He pointed to traffic emphasis patrols and renovations to Argonne that have improved conditions for pedestrians and earned kudos from retailers for returning the road into more of a welcoming main street than a high-speed thoroughfare.
“We’re making progress in the community for traffic safety,” Mork said.