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35th Avenue SE closure causes increased traffic through neighborhoods

35th Avenue SE at Penny Creek closed in 2015. Photo credit: Richard Van Winkle.
35th Avenue SE at Penny Creek closed in 2015. Photo credit: Richard Van Winkle.

By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.

Mill Creek’s complete closure of 35th Avenue SE at Penny Creek that began on July 2, 2018, is sending increased vehicle traffic through nearby neighborhoods even though the city discourages drivers from using “unofficial detour routes” as shortcuts.

According to a July 13th memo from Interim City Manager Bob Stowe, the City of Mill Creek and the project’s contractors have already taken the following traffic mitigation measures:

  • Detour signs installed on the various approach routes (continually being evaluated).
  • Speed feedback signs and temporary speed-bumps installed in the Highland Trails and Silvercrest neighborhoods (continually being evaluated).
  • Public information distributed via social media and traditional media outlets.
  • A 35th Ave SE road closure identification placed on the Google mapping program via the Waze internet application. This is a benefit, in that it helps alert drivers of the road closure, but there are drawbacks as well, as the navigation systems that rely on the technology will direct drivers into the neighborhoods to get around the closure (continually being evaluated).

A number of Mill Creek residents came to the July 10th city council meeting to complain about the increased traffic through the Highland Trails neighborhood and to ask that 144th Street SE be closed near the intersection with 35th Avenue SE. Closing the road at this point would eliminate the shortcut through the Highland Trails neighborhood, but would push traffic to other neighborhoods.

Mill Creek City Councilmember Mark Bond, who is a Highland Trails resident, commented, “The traffic is very bad during peak hours. A creative solution would be great. I don’t know what it is.”

Bond went on to say he assumed shutting down 144th Street SE would “push people onto 148th and through Village Green Drive. Still not ideal, but it might be better than what we’re dealing with which is completely residential where as that is a little bit better.” He requested that options be investigated.

Stowe’s July 13th memo said that the July 10th city council meeting comments resulted in the following additional traffic mitigation efforts:

  • Quality control all project approaches to ensure appropriate and clearly understood signage.
  • Correct/adjust north-bound traffic control signs.
  • Regularly (every 7-10 days) download traffic count and speed data from our speed feedback signs to monitor the traffic flow.
  • Install a traffic calming device (speed-bump) near 144th St SE and 30th Ave SE and in conjunction with a pre-existing median to eliminate the option for drivers to drive around the speed-bump.
  • Remove the speed feedback sign currently installed on 28th Drive SE and re-set it on west-bound Silvercrest Drive SE to be able to collect data related to southbound bypass traffic (speed and vehicle count). This will allow us to get a picture of both north- and south-bound traffic.

Stowe reported that a full closure of 144th Street SE is not appropriate at this time His memo stated, “The anticipated impacts (of the closure) beyond the Highland Trails neighborhood are significant and we feel that we will only push the associated challenges from one neighborhood to another. We understand that this provides no solace to the Highland Trails neighborhood, but it is a decision that is in the best interest of the whole community.”

“We hope to positively impact the issue with some of our other efforts. There are two significant issues associated with this closure that would only exacerbate the problem; the bypass traffic would impact 148th Street SE and the closure (of 144th Street SE) at 35th would prompt significant u-turn traffic for vehicles coming from the north only to find the road closed, despite appropriate signage."

"The traffic on 148th Street SE is at an acceptable level now, but when school (Mill Creek Elementary) starts in just under two months, the roadway and the intersection at the Brighton neighborhood cannot accommodate any additional vehicular traffic.”

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