Crain Avenue residents discuss resolution to speeding concerns

Ryan Haidet

Residents and city officials concerned with traffic and speeding issues in the Crain Avenue area will meet tonight at 7 p.m. in Walls Elementary School to discuss what should be done.

“The residents requested a meeting for traffic calming,” said Jennifer Barone, development engineer for the city of Kent. “The main focus of Monday’s meeting is the issue of drivers going across the Crain Avenue Bridge and cutting across Luther.”

A group of volunteers have formed the Traffic Calming Committee, which Barone said has two goals.

“Reducing speed and traffic are the two most important things the committee does,” Barone said.

Barone said the residents requested that the city look at temporary ways to fix the problem. Although she’s not sure what it will be, it “would have to be things like stop signs, one-way roads or speed bumps.”

Something she said is being looked into is who wants changes made.

“We’ve requested a petition to see if everybody in the neighborhood wants it or if it was just the people at the (previous) meeting,” Barone said.

This meeting is the first in several months.

Barone said she would like to see drivers simply stop speeding.

“It’s a cultural change with people driving down the streets,” she said. “If people would just follow the rules. We have a lot more cars and more traffic and less time.”

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said these types of meetings are done “to engage the local residents in a discussion of possible options to preserve the quality of life in the neighborhood that has become increasingly threatened by increases in cut-thru traffic.”

“Traffic calming has become one of the tools that have proven effective at discouraging cut-thru traffic,” Ruller said in an e-mail. “Basically, traffic calming offers a range of interventions, and like tools in a tool kit, you’ve got to find the best fit for each situation. The meetings help match the tool to the problem.”

Councilwoman Beth Oswitch, whose ward includes Crain Avenue, said she will be attending “to help the neighbors with anything they need.”

“I am there to answer questions and pose questions they may have not thought of that other neighbors have issues with,” Oswitch said in an e-mail. “I really let them guide this process.”

Oswitch said she has her own expectations of the meeting.

“I would like the neighborhood to feel like they have accomplished their needs,” she said. “The speed in the neighborhoods is very high and there are children all through our areas. We need to have people slow down and stop at stop signs.”

But Oswitch said this is a long process with many things to consider.

“If we just go and change things on one street it may have negative impacts on the next street,” Oswitch said. “So there was a large procedure to follow. My volunteers stated that they do not feel that this should be our neighborhood’s responsibilities to fix – that the city needs to fix it, that the university needs to help fix it. Most neighbors on Crain Avenue feel that if the university traffic would stay on the main roads there would not be a traffic calming need. They told the administration to try and figure it out without the neighbors having to pay for it.”

James Baker, a resident of Crain Avenue for more than 30 years, is a volunteer in the Traffic Calming Committee who has seen many drivers speed down his road. He said he hasn’t seen much of anything accomplished.

“I haven’t seen any calming, not on my street, which is Crain Avenue,” Baker said. “Crain is like a race track most of the time.”

He said the solution is simple.

“I think they could just put a few more stops,” Baker said. “I just want it slowed down. I’m between two four-way stops and it’s amazing how fast people go in front of my house from a dead stop. I probably see 50 cars a day go over 35. I just think put in a couple more three-way stops. If you have to stop three or four times on a street, maybe you’ll go a different way.”

The lack of law enforcement, he said, is a major part of why the speeding happens.

“A town this size should probably have twenty more police,” Baker said. “We are way understaffed. They (city hall) spend a lot of money, but not on police, so they don’t have time to patrol. Speed limits are 25, but sometimes people are doing 50 or 60. Just enforce the law.”

He said that at a previous meeting a suggestion to stop the cut-thru drivers is by changing the timing of traffic lights.

“If you sit at a red light for four minutes when maybe you could turn the other way and get through in two minutes, maybe you’ll go the other way,” Baker said.

He will be attending the meeting.

“We’re just in the planning stage,” Baker said. “Monday night we may finally get down to doing stuff. The trouble with city hall in this town is that they move so slowly.”

Contact public affairs reporter Ryan Haidet at [email protected].