In a discussion addressing the dilemma of speeding motorists detouring down local streets, the Millwood Council decided against taking a shortcut of its own on Monday night.
The community meeting represented the latest in a series of conversations dealing with the safety of neighborhood roads like Fowler, Butler and Empire that have become alternative routes for motorists seeking a way around busy arterials like Trent and Argonne. For Millwood residents like Mike Ellis, who lives on Fowler, the list of concerns involves everything from cars running stop signs to the lack of sidewalks and street lighting on narrow roads.
“It’s really become a dangerous situation,” Ellis said.
Last February, Millwood Mayor Dan Mork invited representatives from Spokane County, the Washington Department of Transportation and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to offer their recommendations on potential traffic-calming measures. The meeting generated a number of ideas including emphasis patrols, radar signs and implementations like traffic circles and bends in the road known as chicanes.
This fall, following a major resurfacing project on Argonne Road, the engineering firm of Welch Comer conducted a traffic study on Fowler, Empire and Butler roads. On Monday, Matt Gillis of Welch Comer provided an overview of the research along with a list of safety options incorporated in other areas.
Using an evaluation tool called the “85th percentile speed,” Gillis describes how 85 percent of the vehicles on Empire were clocked going below a speed of 31 mph while 15 percent of motorists surpassed it. On Fowler, the rate was lower at 26 mph. The posted speed limit on both Empire and Fowler is 25 mph.
While Gillis said that the findings did not indicate a glaring problem, he noted that it would be up to the council to decide how to respond to the data.
For his part, Mork said he had seen cars traveling in the 50 mph to 60 mph range on certain roads marked at 25 mph. The mayor joined several council representatives in pointing out that other traffic violations – like running stop signs – continue to create safety hazards. During one of several traffic emphasis patrols in the area of Fowler and Empire, Mork said he received a report of five stop sign tickets in less than 30 minutes.
Gillis also referred to the accident history in the research area over the past five years as documented by local police. There have been 13 incidents in that span, including a dozen at the intersection of Empire and Argonne.
Millwood resident Jim Kliene said the city should invest in traffic cameras similar to the ones utilized by the city of Spokane to catch motorists who run red lights – the corresponding fees from tickets going back to the jurisdiction.
“I think we should have something that benefits the city,” Kliene said.
The idea led to a discussion about the possibility of bringing back a municipal court to Millwood, similar to the satellite courts in cities like Deer Park and Cheney.
“We could get the numbers and see if it’s worth looking into,” Mork said.
Other citizens at the meeting supported the idea of establishing a right-turn lane off Trent near Argonne with a goal of channeling traffic away from streets like Fowler. The change would need to be coordinated with entities like WSDOT and the city of Spokane Valley.
Tom Richardson, Millwood city clerk and finance director, said $8,000 has been set aside in the municipal budget for the traffic calming project. Mork, who has indicated that the funds would likely be spent on a radar sign, said he would provide a review of options at the next City Council meeting on April 5.