Traffic flow, pedestrian safety, snow removal among topics at First Friday Coffee Chat
By MARY STEVENS DECKER
Redmond Reporter Reporter
November 6, 2009 · 3:17 PM
Traffic flow, pedestrian safety and snow removal plans were among topics at the Redmond Senior Center's Nov. 6 First Friday Coffee Chat. The monthly chats feature guest speakers from the City of Redmond.
Ron Grant, assistant public works director and city engineer, was the guest speaker this month, filling in for public works director Bill Campbell, who had been scheduled to appear. Grant explained that Campbell was at a meeting in Spokane.
DOWNTOWN GROWTH ISSUES
Campbell's absence raised the ire of one attendee who said she had looked forward to "latching onto" Campbell, to express her "disgust with how downtown Redmond has been ruined." She and others described new, multi-use buildings on Cleveland Street as "hideous," "ugly" and "eyesores."
Grant respectfully noted that there are various opinions about the new buildings — some citizens like them, others don't. He also explained that seeking approval for new development is a function of the city's planning department, not the public works department.
"Public Works provides infrastructure for sewers, water and streets," Grant clarified.
GOING WITH THE FLOW
That led to questions about downtown traffic flow, such as the plan to turn Redmond Way and Cleveland Street back into two-way streets. Folks wanted to know if it was really going to happen and why.
"Yes, we'll be converting the couplet, all the way from Trader Joe's to the (Bear Creek Plaza) Safeway," Grant confirmed. Because Redmond Way is part of a state route (202), the city will get state participation for this project and Kirkland will take control of the route within its limits, he said.
Grant mentioned the city's plans to also extend 161st Avenue Northeast in the same way that it built the new portion of Bear Creek Parkway, to improve downtown mobility.
Redmond Way will become more of a thoroughfare and Cleveland Street will be more of a "Pike Place Market area" with a slower pace, encouraging bike and pedestrian traffic, he stated.
A senior wondered, "Is that for business owners?"
Grant replied, "Yes, they complain that people (in cars) zip by and don't see them."
The plans to establish a grid pattern in downtown Redmond involve "a balance between moving traffic and helping bring pedestrians and bikes into the area," he explained.
That prompted a remark that "pedestrians in downtown Redmond is a joke. You only see people get in and out of their cars."
Grant said that building wider sidewalks and better crosswalks was an impetus toward changing the perception that downtown Redmond isn't pedestrian-friendly.
"Making Cleveland Street multi-modal and putting up monument signage so pedestrians don't get lost," are also ways to improve the situation, he said.
"We're also looking at doing that in Overlake. A lot of people think that's Bellevue but we have a unique position in that we have two urban centers."
Several seniors said that some downtown Redmond crosswalks feel unsafe, especially when it is dark and rainy outside. They said cars don't yield to pedestrians or maybe drivers just can't see them. Some asked if more "light-implanted" crosswalks like the ones near Bella Botega and Redmond Town Center could be installed, or at the very least, better signage.
Grant said the city welcomes input on such matters and routinely studies intersections which are known to be problematic for pedestrians. He said citizens with questions or comments could stop by Redmond City Hall and visit the second floor engineering group, where traffic calming and traffic safety specialists will listen to such concerns.
PREPARING FOR SNOW WOES
No discussion of public works in the City of Redmond would be complete without questions about preparedness for the next major snow storm.
"Last year was very unique. I don't expect to ever see it again in my lifetime, but you never know," said Grant, referring to December 2008's series of brutal snow and ice storms which left many Redmond residents and workers stranded in their homes or offices.
Grant said he was proud of the hard work that public works employees had done last year, during 12-hour shifts, trying to keep up with the unusually severe weather.
"We've learned a tremendous amount from that experience," he said.
The city is now prepared to use an efficient and environmentally friendly product called Geomelt to apply to streets before or during snow and ice events. He said it won't pollute waterways, is not corrosive like salt or "hard to pick up" like sand, although it can be mixed with sand to improve traction as well as melt snow and ice.
The city has also repurposed a former Parks Department vehicle by outfitting it with a snow plow, at a cost of about $20,000, instead of buying another snow plow truck (at a cost of $100,000 or more) that would probably not be used on a frequent basis.
For more information about City of Redmond Public Works, click here.Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Mary Stevens Decker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 867-0353, ext. 5052.