As congestion worsens in North Bend, safety becomes priority

NORTH BEND - Safety was the main concern elicited from residents at an open house held Tuesday, Jan. 15, for North Bend's transportation plan.

The meeting was the first public step in the city's effort to develop a comprehensive transportation plan by September.

"Safety is the biggest concern," said North Bend resident Tonie Morgan. "Being able to access different and significant places with all the benefits of safety is what everyone ultimately wants."

City staff members took suggestions from residents on what they wanted to see North Bend do to make transportation safer and faster.

"This is the first step in finding solutions for the city," said Gregg Dohrn, director of northwest planning services for the firm Bucher, Willis and Ratliff, which has been hired by North Bend to help develop the plan. "We'll take all their comments now and then come back with a plan the council will vote on."

With safety the recurring theme, many suggestions centered around traffic either slowing down or stopping at specific points in the city.

The intersection Southeast North Bend Way and Southeast Cedar Falls Way was named as one of the most dangerous parts of the city through which to either walk or drive.

Many are frustrated at having to rely on North Bend Way to get them through the city. Most traffic must get on or cross the road, which runs through the historic downtown section that residents would like to see more pedestrian friendly.

Councilman Jack Webber said a conflict arises by trying to make North Bend Way slower for pedestrians and efficient for drivers at the same time.

"The business owners hate the medians, but they are there for the purpose that everyone wants them to be there," he said. "If we really want to slow things down, we need to put even more stuff in."

Another street of contention is Cedar Falls Way, which many residents say has become a second thoroughfare through North Bend because of its lack of traffic and the soft turn off of North Bend Way.

David Desautel, who lives by Cedar Falls Way, said it used to be a major artery through town until houses were built alongside it. The houses were supposed to lower the speed through the area, but he said many drivers still race through the neighborhood.

In a personal study Desautel conducted in July, he found that in a 40-hour period, 689 vehicles went over the posted speed limit of 35 mph, with some going as fast as 70 mph.

"We have suggested everything to slow down traffic from painting the speed limit on the road to putting red flags on the speed-limit sign," he said. "But it never works."

Other ideas from residents at the open house ranged from what to name new streets to which new roads should be approved.

About 10 miles of roads within North Bend were identified as needing repairs or complete replacement.

Among the construction projects was a new road that would cut through the Nintendo property in North Bend and connect to Boalch Avenue and State Route 202.

But those proposals are six years old, and new regulations could prevent them from being built.

Road construction is also expensive, and Dohrn said cost will be a large factor in what gets done and when.

"Making a list of priorities based on the list of resources, that's the real challenge," he said.

Webber said he is seeking new ideas on how to deal with pedestrian safety and traffic efficiency. A compromise would most likely frustrate everyone, therefore he's looking for an entirely different approach.

"I'm looking for a third way here. A new vision," Webber said.

"I'm for anything that makes getting around town more peaceful," said Scott Miners. "That's why we moved out here."

The city hopes to host another open house later this year.

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