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Kent plans to help slow SE 223rd Drive traffic

The city of Kent installed this traffic circle in 2010 at the intersection of Jason Avenue and Temperance Street to slow vehicles. Panther Lake residents want a circle or other traffic device along Southeast 223rd Drive. - COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent
The city of Kent installed this traffic circle in 2010 at the intersection of Jason Avenue and Temperance Street to slow vehicles. Panther Lake residents want a circle or other traffic device along Southeast 223rd Drive.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Kent city officials will work with residents along Southeast 223rd Drive to find a way to slow down drivers who speed through the neighborhood.

The street drew the city's focus after a 1996 Nissan Coupe driven by Justin Jerald Cordova, 18, struck and killed motorcyclist David Daniel, 55, on Aug. 22 along the street. Cordova reportedly had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent and traveled at an estimated 65 mph in the 25 mph zone just prior to the accident. Cordova has been charged with vehicular homicide.

That accident increased the efforts by residents who live in the neighborhood to get the city to install a speed bump, traffic circle or other device to slow traffic down.

"We have 73 signatures from people who live along Southeast 223rd Drive who want speed bumps or a roundabout or some physical structure to slow people down," said Matt Richner, a resident of the neighborhood.

Richner made that comment at a City Council Public Works Committee meeting on Monday at City Hall attended by eight Panther Lake residents who testified about the problems along the street between 116th Avenue Southeast and 132nd Avenue Southeast. Richner and his wife were featured in a Sept. 7 Kent Reporter story about the traffic problem.

City officials announced at the meeting that Southeast 223rd Drive neighbors can discuss the traffic problem and potential solutions with city transportation officials at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3 at Sunrise Elementary School, 22300 132nd Ave. S.E.

"We'll meet to see how severe the problem is and help make sure the solution is appropriate for the neighborhood," said Chad Bieren, a city engineer.

Council members Elizabeth Albertson and Dennis Higgins, who serve on the Public Works Committee, told the residents at the meeting something will be done to slow speeders.

"I'm not sure what we do could prevent the particular accident," Higgins said. "But it's a problem we're going to address. I look forward to a solution and the next steps."

The issue is expected to be back on the Public Works Committee agenda in the next month or so with possible answers about what measures could be taken to slow vehicles.

City transportation officials already have met with another group of Panther Lake residents for plans to install a traffic circle at the intersection of Southeast 224th Street and 129th Place Southeast in an effort to slow traffic.

"Traffic circles are islands placed in the middle of an intersection," Bieren said in an email. "They force traffic to slow down and work their way through the intersection."

Bieren said traffic circles are much smaller than a roundabout, such as the one at Southeast 256th Street and 164th Avenue Southeast in Covington.

Traffic circles can cost from $15,000 to $35,000, said Rob Knutsen, a city engineering technician. Permanent radar speed signs, another possible option that shows drivers how fast they are going, cost $10,000 to $15,000.

Albertson said city officials need to work with both Panther Lake groups to find ways to slow traffic in the neighborhood even though the 224th Street group is farther along the city process to slow speeders than residents along 223rd Drive.

"I'd like to see a cohesive plan to address this," Albertson said. "I know they are in different places in the process but I'd like to see things go faster for the persons on the other end of the street."

Residents who seek the city's help to slow traffic typically go through two phases to figure out how to address the problem. The first step after a neighborhood meeting is to look at steps to combat speeding.

Vehicles travel as much as 5 to 8 mph over the posted 25 mph speed limit along Southeast 223rd Drive, according to city studies. That doesn't meet the city's typical threshold of 10 mph over the speed limit in order to get a physical device such as a speed bump or traffic circle. But the 10 mph number isn't a must-have rule.

"The policy passed by the City Council allows flexibility in the issue," said Public Works Director Tim LaPorte at the meeting. "The 10 mph is not a commandment."

That was good news to the Panther Lake residents, who fear the usual phase one steps of sending warning letters to the registered owners of speeding vehicles or posting a temporary speed radar sign wouldn't solve the problem.

"Sending letters wouldn't work," said resident Barb Bennum to the committee. "People would think they didn't go that fast and throw it away."

Bennum testified earlier that the city needs to act quickly. Kent annexed the Panther Lake area in 2010.

"We've needed speed bumps for a very long time," Bennum said about failures by King County to solve the problem. "We'll pay for it if we need to. We need something done. And don't approve it and say it'll be 10 years before we get it. We need it immediately."

A proposal for speed humps, traffic circle, or some other traffic calming device is taken back to the council for approval, Bieren said in an email. The funds come out of the city’s general fund.

Residents who want to learn more about the city's Residential Traffic Calming Program, can call Rob Knutsen at 253-856-5530 for more information or go to www.kentwa.gov and search for traffic calming.

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