Education Hill gets much-needed, new traffic lights

The four-way stop signs at the top of Education Hill are history.

The four-way stop signs at the top of Education Hill are history.

At noon Tuesday, a small crowd cheered as Redmond Mayor John Marchione and Redmond Junior High Principal Prato Barone flipped the switches to activate the new traffic signals at the intersection of Northeast 104th Street and 166th Avenue Northeast.

This traffic safety improvement has been needed and wanted by parents and students on the hill for many years, according to Barone. The intersection is not only a stone’s throw from Redmond Junior High but also close to Horace Mann Elementary, Redmond High School and St. Jude Catholic Church. Pedestrians and bicycle riders are plentiful and many drivers use these streets to bypass traffic jams on Avondale Road at the bottom of the hill.

The timing of these traffic lights will vary throughout school hours and rush hours, said project manager Tricia Thomas and traffic operations engineer Bruce Newman.

An especially user-friendly feature is a flashing yellow arrow that allows left turns as long as drivers yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

“Studies show drivers are less likely to confuse the flashing yellow arrow with a green arrow or solid green light,” said Newman.

Funding for the traffic signals came from “Safe Routes to School” grant money, Thomas noted.

Marchione briefly addressed a group of junior high students about the three-to-two lane traffic conversion atop the hill, which originally had been controversial. He explained how moving automobile traffic away from the sidewalks made foot traffic safer and easier for them and their neighbors.

The mayor added that he and City Council members received their share of “Dear Idiot” letters in the process. Four of the councilmembers who were present at the ceremony — David Carson, Hank Myers, Hank Margeson and Richard Cole — laughed in agreement.

While “Dear Idiot” letters “won’t get you anywhere in school or in the real world,” said Marchione, thoughtful and respectful opinions from citizens are always appreciated.

Marchione also reviewed a few safety tips with the students. For those who missed the dedication, here are some do’s and don’ts:

Even with the traffic lights, do look both ways before entering the street and only walk when the white walking signal is blinking.

Bikes are only allowed into the right car lane and if you need to turn left, you must get off your bike and use the crosswalk as a pedestrian. Also, bikes can get tickets if they don’t obey the traffic signals.