River Bend stoplight a no-go

Leslie Schelat

City officials say traffic at entrance of development doesn’t warrant signal

Residents at the River Bend housing development still haven’t gotten the green light for a traffic signal there — for now at least.

For the second time in approximately four years, some of the neighborhood’s homeowners requested a stoplight be installed where River Bend Boulevard meets state Route 43.

And for the second time in approximately four years, City Council has not found a sufficient need, but this time, they have asked for more research on the issue.

Normal procedure for such problems is to study the automobile and pedestrian traffic in the area, especially during morning and evening rush hours. In the case of River Bend Boulevard, the studies administered by the city’s Engineering Division did not find a need for a stoplight at any time of the day.

Because neighborhood residents have been voicing concerns for numerous years, City Council asked that more studies be done to evaluate the situation.

“We asked to do ones that didn’t cost money,” said Councilwoman Beth Oswitch, who head’s the council’s Streets, Sidewalks and Utilities Committee.

One of these studies involves putting the police department’s portable speed trailer in the area to monitor speeds as well as traffic density.

The cost of the first study and the cost of the light are both expenses the city has to fund from its already strained budget.

“I don’t think anyone is saying they don’t need a light,” Oswitch said. “The big problem is our finances are really tight right now.”

Oswitch said the problem is figuring out where the cost of the light fits in with the city’s budget. If no money is available, it would then be added to Kent’s five-year capital plan. At the Nov. 8 City Council meeting, the possibility of residents paying for the light was also discussed.

“They told us it would cost about $30,000, but there were other streets that needed it as well,” said Kenneth Healy, a River Bend resident.

If City Council decides to put a light in at River Bend Boulevard, it would be added to a waiting list with other intersections that need signals. However, it may not be a priority because some of those intersections, such as Admore Drive and state Route 59, have been determined to have high enough traffic flow or enough serious accidents to warrant a stoplight.

This isn’t the first time residents have voiced concerns about traffic coming into and going out of their neighborhood, which sits across from Theodore Roosevelt High School.

“We need one,” said Healy, who has lived on River Bend Boulevard for 12 years. “I worry about the kids. They all walk to school.”

Healy said many people think the children walk down to the stoplight at the school, but he knows they don’t.

Erika Pfeiffer, who lives on River Trail Drive, agrees.

“I definitely, definitely think we should have a light at the entrance to our neighborhood,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s terrible trying to get out of there, especially in the morning.”

Adults aren’t the only ones complaining, though.

“In high school, it was tough to get out,” senior photojournalism major Chase Coleman said. Coleman lives with his parents on River Bend Boulevard and attended Roosevelt High School. “If you didn’t get out there early, you’d be waiting for 15 minutes to turn left.”

He said he often would turn right and go north on state Route 43 before turning around and going south to the school.

“I’ve gotten into an accident there,” Coleman said.

Contact public affairs reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].