Transportation Manager Kurt Seemann, right, explains the data collected by the tube counters as Public Works Engineering Director Sheldon Lynne, left, looks on. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Transportation Manager Kurt Seemann, right, explains the data collected by the tube counters as Public Works Engineering Director Sheldon Lynne, left, looks on. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Highlands meeting discusses steps forward for speeding issue

If there was any remaining doubt about the extent of the speeding problem in the Issaquah Highlands, the July 12 meeting at Blakely Hall should have firmly dispelled any of them.

Despite the fact that it was a warm and beautiful summer evening, over 50 people gathered in Blakely Hall to strategize methods to combat the rampant speeding in the family-filled neighborhood. Among the 50 were notable Issaquah faces — Mayor Fred Butler, City Council President Stacy Goodman, School Board President Lisa Callan, City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Paul Winterstein and mayoral candidate Claude Blumenzweig were all in attendance.

Transportation Manager Kurt Seemann and Public Works Engineering Director Sheldon Lynne led the presentation, showing examples of what the city can do to better enforce speed regulations.

“The city is not going to come force traffic calming [on the Highlands],” Seemann said. “This is a joint effort.”

After increasing complaints from Highlands residents about the rampant speeding on the neighborhood’s streets, the city has begun taking measures in recent months to address the problem.

In April and May, Issaquah police devoted an extra 150 hours of patrols to catching speeders in certain problematic neighborhoods, notably the Highlands. This resulted in 180 drivers being pulled over in the Highlands for speeding — many of them being Highlands residents themselves, according to Issaquah Police Sergeant Laura Asbell.

And in early June, the city used tube counters — parallel black tubes laid across a roadway that acquire data as cars pass over them — to measure the speed of cars traveling down 24th Avenue Northeast and 25th Avenue Northeast, two of the streets that received the most complaints.

Seemann and Lynne handed out spreadsheets of data collected by the tube counters between June 1 and June 8 on 24th and 25th Avenues, which both have a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. In the span of that week, there were 24 instances in which someone traveled over 50 mph — at least twice the speed limit — down 25th Avenue Northeast. There were 13 such instances on 24th Avenue Northeast.

Of those instances, 50 mph was the low number. Out of the 37 recordings of someone going over 50 mph on the two streets, 14 of the instances involved someone driving over 70 mph. And at least eight of those times, the person was going over 80 mph — over three times the speed limit. The highest recorded speed, recorded on June 5 on 24th Avenue and on both June 3 and June 8 on 25th Avenue, was 88.7 mph — 53.7 miles above the speed limit.

It is perhaps no wonder, then, that locals at the meeting said that they are scared to walk down their own streets.

“I’ve had to teach my kids to be afraid of cars,” said Highlands resident Jamie Rosen.

Resident Doug Anter, whose young daughters were in attendance with him at the meeting, said that every night from his bedroom window, he can hear a “drag race” outdoors in the street. The streets have gotten so dangerous, he said, that he and his wife have considered moving away from Issaquah just to keep their children safe.

During the question-and-answer session, residents were all too eager to have their turn with the microphone and explain their own experiences with speedy drivers. Locals brought up every concern from the abundance of construction vehicles, to people failing to stop at stop signs, to a group of teens and young people who “cruise” the streets at night at very fast speeds.

Issaquah Police Officer Ryan Smith assured the residents that he “know[s] who those kids are … and [has] been working on that problem.”

He also advised residents to call police whenever they see a problem.

Seemann explained that the city looks at three levels of solutions, ranging from communication solutions (Level 1) to physical engineering improvements (Level 3).

“Everything is a tradeoff,” he said. “You’re all in this neighborhood, and you’ll be the ones living with these improvements every day.”

Level 1 solutions, Seemann explained, “can [be] started on right away,” and include ideas such as signing a pledge not to speed, or putting up signs and bumper stickers to let drivers know that speeding will not be tolerated in the Highlands.

“They’re simple, they’re easy and they can be effective,” Seemann said.

The highest level of solutions involves actually constructing physical barriers to fast driving, such as traffic circles, curb extensions or “bulb-outs” and speed bumps, or narrowing the street.

Lynne noted, however, that communication — such as talking to one’s friends and neighbors about the dangers of speeding — can be more effective than engineering solutions, and suggested that residents try these Level 1 methods first.

“It’s a social behavior,” Lynne said. “People living in that neighborhood probably have more influence than … physical devices.”

However, Seemann’s and Lynne’s words failed to reassure everyone in the room.

Blumenzweig said in an official statement via email, “Though this forum was informative from the City, it did little to propose solutions to the problem we all now we have here in Issaquah (Traffic). If I am elected Mayor my plan is to have actual proposals that deal with solutions to our problem (Traffic) rather than meaningless talk (sic).”

Blumenzweig’s campaign manager, Justin Costello, added in another emailed statement, “This was typical on what to expect from the communication from Issaquah City Government Officials, the transportation manager (Mr. Sheldon) was unprepared and did not even understand his own poorly constructed spreadsheet/data, my 6 year old son could have done a better spreadsheet … We need solutions and not be paying almost $100,000 per year to employees who don’t take there job seriously (sic).”

Last month, Goodman told the Reporter that she felt the speeding problem was past the point of the conversation phase, and that “we’re at the point of looking at permanent solutions.”

“This community discussion was a good first step towards making improvements in the Highlands. I’m grateful for everyone who attended and to those who shared their concerns and ideas … Now it’s critical that the CIty follow-through and take action where they can and propose long-term solutions for the community to weigh in on (sic),” Winterstein stated in an email.

Seemann suggested that everyone brainstorm solutions and meet again sometime in the fall to work on next moves.

“We’re not going to figure this out tonight, but it’s a good first step,” Seemann said.


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Highlands resident Doug Anter tells Transportation Manager Sheldon Lynne that drivers “drag race” by his house every night. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Highlands resident Doug Anter tells Transportation Manager Sheldon Lynne that drivers “drag race” by his house every night. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Highlands resident Jamie Rosen describes how she has had to teach her children to be afraid of cars. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Highlands resident Jamie Rosen describes how she has had to teach her children to be afraid of cars. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Eastside Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Greg Tryon talks to the crowd of 50 at Blakely Hall. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Eastside Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Greg Tryon talks to the crowd of 50 at Blakely Hall. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

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