A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2017

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Slowing Speedy Traffic and Building a Boulevard

By Rich Noonan

Our Proctor District neighborhood is one of the finest neighborhoods in our great city of Tacoma, Washington. This is a story about Proctor neighbors working together to try to make it even better.

We have a couple of major arterial roadways that run directly through residential areas of our neighborhood. Over the years, as driving and parking habits have changed, so have the streets changed to accommodate them. Many years ago North 26th was a simple two-lane street. Through the years it has become a widened two-lane arterial with parking on either side and a center turn lane down the middle. This expanse of asphalt had become over five lanes wide. With the feeling of significant width and a downhill grade running from either end of the three block stretch, traffic regularly ran over 40 mph with the occasional 50 mph…within a 30 mph zone. This speed increase did not happen overnight. It has happened slowly, over the years, as the roadway expanded in width and purpose. The goal of our project was to provide a traffic-calming device which would also beautify the street. After talking to city council members and finding out how a project could be undertaken I started to talk to all the neighbors on North 26th in the 3 blocks that would be affected. All acknowledged that traffic was running too fast. Most were eager for a traffic-calming device.

The city developed 4 different traffic-calming plans, each of which affected different aspects of our street such as parking, bus stops, and emergency vehicle access. The “boulevard” plan, involving the installation of a median with plants and trees, could accommodate all our needs while making the road FEEL narrower and beautifying the street. We leafleted the neighbors about gatherings to be held in a meeting room at the library to discuss the variety of trees to be planted and the ground cover. Specific concerns or questions from individuals and households were very helpful and got everyone involved in the process. Decisions were made by discussing and voting. Consistently, neighbors would attend the meetings and offer ideas to street engineers who were developing the plans as well as to the city arborist for the plantings. Such a process cannot please everybody. Some people will use a project such as this to achieve their own agenda or ulterior plan. Don’t let these people deter the project from achieving its goals. Persistence and solidarity for the common good will help the process work. Mid-September, 2005, the center turn lane of the street started to be torn up for the boulevard islands. Curbing went in a few weeks after the street was finished being dug up. Islands, still in the construction phase. All that was left to do to complete that part of the islands was to fill with dirt and plant trees and groundcover. We completed that in mid-November. Dirt was delivered on a Wednesday, trees and plants on Thursday and all the neighbors that were able joined for the planting on Saturday.

Erling and Cherlyn

Andrea, Cherlyn, Beth and Robert

Pierce County Councilman Tim Farrell, Rich and Marlene planting a tree

The project has been proclaimed a success. It has calmed the traffic, lowering speeds 5 to 8 mph, generally. The street has been made to feel narrower. Traveling close to the median trees on the driver’s side, gives a sense of greater speed.. The street looks more inviting and will be even more so as the trees get bigger and fuller. The underlying thing that has happened in our area is that neighbors have met each other that had never spoken with each other before. Neighbors that have lived within houses of one another now know each other. We all worked together to get a common project completed. We have a new appreciation of our great neighborhood and wonderful neighbors…and we’re that much more likely to come together for future neighborhood projects.

Rich

 

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