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Some residents concerned about 166th Ave. project

Traffic backs up on 166th Avenue Northeast. - Courtesy of Mike Ma
Traffic backs up on 166th Avenue Northeast.
— image credit: Courtesy of Mike Ma

The City of Redmond’s construction project on 166th Avenue Northeast has some residents concerned about whether the changes will actually improve things along the road.

The project extends from about Northeast 85th Street to about Northeast 100th Street and consists of construction crews converting the road from four lanes (see below) to three lanes — one in each direction and a center left-turn lane. Additions to the road include bike lanes in each direction and pedestrian-activated rectangular rapid-flashing beacons and new crosswalks at Northeast 91st and 95th streets.

Construction began July 14 and the main work is scheduled to be completed this weekend.

“Our goal was to have it done before school starts,” said City of Redmond construction project manager Patty Criddle, though she added that details such as installing signage and beacons will be complete in October.

TRAFFIC CONCERNS

Mike Collins, Jeani Risch and Mike Ma — residents who live on Northeast 87th Street off of 166th Avenue Northeast — all think converting the street from four to three lanes is a bad idea. They said right now, with two lanes in each direction, traffic can get backed up for blocks — and when a bus makes stops along the road, it gets even worse.

“It stops the entire flow of traffic,” Ma said, adding that he has seen traffic backed up as much as 15 cars.

Reducing the number of lanes would just make it worse, he and his neighbors said.

Collins said there have been times when he has waited up to 10 minutes to turn out of his cul-de-sac onto 166th Avenue Northeast.

Tricia Thomson, a senior engineer for the city, said drivers’ delays should only be about a few seconds.

Rob Crittenden, manager of the city’s traffic operations division, acknowledged the road’s traffic issues, but said they believe there will be some traffic delays and traffic impacts due to construction, but the exchange is that the road will be safer. He said prior to the project, the road worked alright for vehicle traffic, but not for pedestrians or cyclists.

“It wasn’t adequate at all,” he said.

SAFETY CONCERNS

One of the main reasons for the project was to improve safety along Education Hill.

Crittenden said by adding a bike lane, it adds a buffer between cars and the sidewalk, improving pedestrian safety (see above). He added that by converting 166th Avenue Northeast to three lanes, it makes the road more uniform as the road on either side of the portion currently under construction is already three lanes wide.

While most of the stretch of road under construction will now have a center left-turn lane, Crittenden said there won’t be one at the northeast 87th and 86th streets turnoffs. This is because they need to keep the right-turn lane at Northeast 85th Street and the center through lane coming down the hill. While this may make it difficult to turn off of and onto these streets, Crittenden pointed out that vehicles will only be crossing the one lane of traffic coming up the hill, instead of two.

This change has Collins and his neighbors skeptical about whether it will be safer.

Collins, who drives a wheelchair van, said in addition to sometimes waiting several minutes to pull onto 166th Avenue Northeast, visibility can be poor due to the plants and vegetation growing along the road. Because of this, he said he has to pull his van as far as the new bike lanes to be able to see oncoming traffic — possibly endangering any cyclists who may be coming up or down the hill.

Another safety concern brought up by the neighbors was the fact that the northbound lanes coming up the hill merge into one lane after the traffic light at Northeast 85th Street.

Pat Cogan — another resident who lives near Collins, Risch and Ma — suggested the merge to one lane take place prior to the intersection, where the road is flat.

“Cars already go faster than the limit to climb the hill,” he said. “Just wait till they’re trying to cut someone off at the merge.”

Other safety concerns the neighbor have include the fact that there are bus stops on the west side of 166th Avenue Northeast but there are no nearby crosswalks for people to get from their side of the street to the stops.

“That actually discourages me from taking the bus,” Ma said.

ENOUGH PRIOR NOTICE?

Collins said he did not learn about the project until work began and as far as he knew, not many residents on their street had much prior knowledge of the project.

This being said, Thomson said, in planning for the project, the city held a public meeting in October 2013. She said they sent out about 400 postcards to residents and 83 residents attended the meeting. In addition, the city held an open house at City Hall in May.

“It felt like we were getting the word out,” Thomson said.

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