Traffic safety critical in Madison Park

"We're here tonight because my father can't - because he died," Mike Brand said at the Jan. 10 East District Council meeting at the Madison Park Bathhouse.

Many, like Brand, expressed their concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety with Richard Conlin, chair of the City Council's Transportation Committee. About 40 people attended

Brand's father, Alton, was killed in the crosswalk of 41st Avenue East and East Madison Street at 10:55 a.m. on New Year's Eve. The speed limit in the area where his father was hit is 25 mph.

"It's amazingly fast," Brand said. "My father used those crosswalks for nine years, and this was the one time he gets hit."

"I've been almost hit several places, and the only reason I wasn't was because I leaped," said an elderly woman in the audience.

"Lake Washington Boulevard and East Madison Street is a horrible intersection," said Janis Maloney, a member of the East District Council executive board, adding that the traffic gets backed up behind parked cars and that there should be a right-turn lane. "It's just a very difficult situation."

"When people come over the hill on 36th [Avenue East], it's like they're zooming," another resident said. "Why must someone die? I guess that's the question in this city. It seems like someone must die before something is done."

In response, Conlin said, "I understand. First of all, let me say, I feel terrible hearing about these stories."

He added that the city has relied in the past on the courtesy of drivers: "I firmly believe that we have to take some very serious action."

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has determined that crosswalks alone do not offer much protection, Conlin said. Thus, the department has decided not to make any more crosswalks unless they can have other measures added to them such as overhead lights or signage.

Speed limits would be effective, he said, but a legislative requirement limits the ability to reduce speed limits on arterials. Conlin suggested that residents put together a pedestrian plan in their neighborhood. "I will work on these things and I will see what I can do about it," he said.

"Nothing has produced anything that has worked, and we've really worked on it for years," said a woman at the meeting.

"Partly, it's a matter of getting the department to commit to it, which is something I'll work on," Conlin said in response, adding that another part of the problem is funding.

"I will ask that the turn signal at Lake Washington [Boulevard] and East Madison be retimed and that the two parking places be removed to smooth the flow into the arboretum. I will also ask that the parking spaces be removed for the southbound turn from Union [Street] to Broadway and continue to advocate for the Madison-Miller neighborhood for funding for traffic improvements," Conlin said.

"For Madison and the Madison Park neighborhood, I will encourage SDOT to treat the neighborhood center as a special pedestrian zone, meaning to mark all crosswalks and install other warning signs," he said. "This procedure is currently being tested in the Pike-Pine neighborhood between 11th [Avenue] and Boren [Avenue], and this test will be completed this summer.

"I will also ask for traffic enforcement," he added, "and a review of possible additional markings and signs for the area between MLK (Martin Luther King Jr. Way) and the Madison Park business area."

Traffic studies
Sonja Richter, crime-prevention coordinator for the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, attended the meeting and said in a recent interview that she is looking into the concerns addressed by those at the meeting.

East Precinct Capt. Mike Meehan responded immediately to the concerns passed on by Richter by starting a traffic study along Madison that will be conducted through Jan. 31. So far, the study has shown that cars are going faster than the 25 and 30 mph limits.

"What people really need to watch out for is to not assume the cars are driving at the speed limit because, more than likely, they are not and the crosswalk does not ensure their safety," Richter said. "They should try and cross where the crosswalks are, but the crosswalk is really there to give drivers a stronger visual like, 'Look, there will be people there. You need to look for them.'

"But people seem to feel that if they're in the crosswalk, they don't need to be as careful as they might be," she continued. "So if every pedestrian could please take extra care before they even step off the curb, especially older people that may move more slowly, or people with children or dogs or accompanying an older person, to please be extra vigilant when crossing any street.

"We are finding people are going faster than 25 miles," she said, "and it really behooves people in Madison Park to please slow down when they are driving and watch the people and that all pedestrians should take extra care, try and cross at a crosswalk."

She added, "We are looking into what we can do to reduce the speeding in Madison Park. In the meantime, people should take extra care because the drivers are going faster than they should."

Seeking accident witnesses
Seattle Police Department Det. Mike Korner, of the Traffic Collision Investigation Squad, is currently seeking witnesses to the collision that killed Brand's father. To contact Korner, call 684-8927. His office hours are 7 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. "We're looking for as many witnesses as possible," he said in a recent interview.

He added that traffic-enforcement officers in the area are now monitoring the crosswalks and speed.

Contributing writer Jessica Davis can be reached via e-mail at mptimes@[[In-content Ad]]