Unruly driving habits and the dangers they present to Manchester have catapulted local leadership into a desperate search for traffic-calming solutions.
California neighborhood representative Janelle Overton, at-large Russel Higgins and Ana Langone of the Business Committee are set to make up a new safety-focused sub-committee, formed at the Manchester Community Advisory Council’s monthly meeting Aug. 1.
The move comes as a first step toward traffic calming. Community members have reported a higher number of speeders on local roads, leading to heightened risks of collisions and injury. Members of the California, Alaska and Northern neighborhoods among others have expressed concerns.
Additionally, several at the meeting suggested the death of a motorcyclist in late June could become a reoccurring tragedy if local and county leadership does not intervene.
“I watch all day people gunning it from the post office and then past my shop,” Kate Guerrero said. “In the instance where the young man was killed, yes he was speeding, but also he had the opportunity to speed, as do hundreds of people all week long.”
Guerrero’s work in the center of Manchester allows her to watch speeders zoom down Colchester Drive, feet away from the front door. Her worry, however, lies with the nearby kids, as well as the everyday walkers that use the narrow edges of the road.
“If another collision happens, there’s a really high chance that an innocent bystander is going to be hit,” she said.
County traffic operations manager Christy DeGeus presented a variety of traffic calming solutions to the council, including reduction in speed limits and speed tables. A community member said Kitsap County also could make an exception to its speed bump program.
Despite pleas for help, it appears no immediate solution from the county will be available. Along with a small chance of increased police patrols, lowering the speed limits are not realistic in the words of DeGeus, who also stated speed tables or bumps would likely not come to pass.
“Some of your roads up here have grades, so we don’t put them (calming devices) on anything steeper than 8%. We don’t put them on roads that have higher speed limits than 30,” she added.
Tensions rose after DeGeus continually referred to the area as rural and downplayed adding shoulders to roads. That prompted a passionate statement from Friends of Manchester Library’s Ray Pardo.
“These are not one-acre, two-acre lots. These are quarter-acre, third-acre lots, one house after another. Kids play here. They ride their skateboards and whatever they have these days, and they have to go in the travel lane because there is no shoulder,” he said, slamming his hand on the table.
Degeus said cost of shoulders could reach seven figures, an expensive option. “So are lives,” the crowd almost said in unison.
After the meeting, Pardo was asked if the county was prioritizing city projects over community needs. “It’s hard to say,” he admitted. “Frankly, people in the state of Washington don’t want to pay for the roads that they need, and the road improvements that you need, including for pedestrians and bicycles.”
Following the meeting, DeGeus stated the county was not working against its smaller community.