By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
The City of Mill Creek was founded in a once rural part of Snohomish County. In the 1980’s traffic lights on Bothell-Everett Highway (SR 527) and 132nd Street SE (SR 96) were few and far between. As well, the speed limits on these two Washington State highways were 40 to 45 miles per hour, which are appropriate for rural stretches of the roads.
As more and more people made their homes in the Mill Creek area, both motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic picked up. Traffic lights took the place of four-way stop signs at major intersections and the speed limits on Bothell Everett Highway were reduced within city limits. These changes produced improved safety, but also increased travel times for commuters just passing through.
132nd Street SE is now a major east-west highway connecting I-5 to eastern Snohomish County where there has been a significant increase in population over the past twenty years. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, approximately 35,000 vehicles used this road each day in 2015. They expect this number to increase to 40,000 by 2040.
A significant number of residents now live on the north side of 132nd Street SE outside city limits. The City of Mill Creek has many commercial developments on the south side of the road.
These residents often decide to cross the busy street in mid-block, rather than walk several hundred feet or several hundred yards to crosswalks.
Mill Creek Director of Public Works and Community Services Gina Hortillosa gave the city council an overview of the situation at their October 8, 2018, meeting.
She said that according to Washington State Department of Transportation data, 13 pedestrians made this choice just west of 35th Avenue SE on one October 2017 evening. She went on to say this unsafe practice resulted in at least five pedestrian/vehicle crashes on the road from January 2017 to October 2018.
Mill Creek Police Chief Greg Elwin said he believes speed of the vehicles was probably a contributing factor in these accidents.
At the present time, the speed limit for 132nd Street SE within the city is 45 miles per hour.
Hortillosa told the city council a number of meetings between City of Mill Creek, Washington State, and Everett School District staff were held “to discuss actions that could be taken to reduce the frequency of pedestrian/vehicle crashes on SR 96.”
These meetings resulted in city staff and Washington State staff to propose reducing the speed limit from 45 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour within the city limits. This would match the speed limit west of city limits all the way to Interstate 5.
Hortillosa said that although Washington State is responsible for setting the speed limit on SR 96, they wouldn’t change things without a formal request from the city council.
The city council decided that further discussion and study may be warranted, but declined to take action or to specifically direct staff to do further research.
SR 96 in Mill Creek. Image courtesy of Google maps.