EVERETT — After several pedestrians were killed by drivers in south Everett, city staff are planning lower speed limits along Everett Mall Way and Evergreen Way.
It has been 13 years since the city last reduced a speed limit.
Since November, four men have died when drivers struck them on Evergreen Way between the 9600 block and Center Road. But before the pandemic, the city had already started evaluating lower speed limits on one of the county’s most treacherous roads for cyclists and pedestrians.
• On Nov. 18, Vadim Pikovets, 54, was crossing Evergreen Way in the 9600 block when a southbound vehicle struck him.
• Richard Nelson, 88, was crossing the thoroughfare near 100th Street SW when a driver hit him.
• Three days later, Sean Stratton, 40, was arguing with a woman when he crossed Evergreen. A driver headed north, between Center Road and 112th Street SW, hit him.
• And most recently, on April 11, Donaldo Perez Perez crossed the deadly road when he was hit at the intersection with Airport Road. He was 35.
The drivers were cooperative with police in each incident. No arrests were made.
Everett traffic engineer Corey Hert proposes reducing the speed limit for Evergreen Way, which is also Highway 99, from 50 to 40 mph between Airport Road and Everett Mall Way, and then from 40 to 35 mph along Everett Mall Way from Evergreen to Seventh Avenue SE.
“It’s a reasonable transition as you’re going northbound on Highway 99 approaching the city of Everett,” Hert said. “This is part of our ongoing process to improve safety on city streets.”
Studies have found a correlation between impact speed and fatality rate when a driver hits a pedestrian. One estimate cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says about 40% of people would die if hit by a vehicle traveling 30 mph; about 80% at 40 mph; and nearly 100% at over 50 mph.
At 20 mph, the number of people who would die plunges to around 5%, according to the estimate.
Advocates have called for slower vehicle speeds as a means of reducing fatal collisions, especially in cities.
Lowering speed limits requires council approval, as well as analysis and an OK from the Washington State Department of Transportation because it’s a state highway.
Councilmember Liz Vogeli, the council’s liaison to the Transportation Advisory Committee, said she is likely to support the resolution.
“I have been a proponent of lowering the speed limits in this area since at least my first year on council,” said Vogeli, whose District 4 includes the affected areas. “We’ve had four pedestrian fatalities in that area. That’s just this year. … If the speed limits had been less and (the drivers) were following the rules, it might not have been a fatality, and there would have been less heartache for the driver, as well as the ones close to who died.”
But the city can’t, and doesn’t, set speed limits “indiscriminately,” and drivers tend to ignore ones that are “artificially” set, Hert said.
In 2009, Everett dropped the limit for 79th Place SE, which fronts the southern side of Evergreen Middle School, from 25 to 20 mph, as a school zone.
“We try to set reasonable speed limits,” Hert said. “It commands respect from drivers, and it’s easier to enforce.”
Industry standards have changed for how traffic engineers evaluate speed limits, Hert said. Considerations include the speeds drivers travel, as well as road characteristics, pedestrian volume and traffic volume, among other factors.
Reducing speeds also often requires changes to the road, Hert said.
There is a vision to dramatically alter Highway 99 through Everett in a 2012 Evergreen Way Revitalization Plan. It includes center medians and other corridor revisions designed to slow traffic and make the highway less a chasm through the city.
“It’s very much pie-in-the-sky with a lot of money required,” city engineer Tom Hood said.
Instead, private development along Evergreen Way is likely to lead to those changes over time.
Lowering the speed limit is one of the immediate ways the city can improve safety for drivers and pedestrians in the area.
Vehicle lanes there are already “fairly narrow” at 10½ feet, Hert said. That means the city can’t seek to re-stripe the lanes and make them narrower, which helps reduce driver speed.
Vogeli said the city should consider concrete median barriers along portions of Evergreen Way. They would separate northbound and southbound traffic in lieu of more permanent curb or landscaped medians, and that could prevent head-on collisions, she said. She’d also like the city to pursue bus and turn lanes along Highway 99’s seven lanes in Everett.
But lower speeds are a start for now.
“It’s not going to make everyone slow down, but some people will,” Vogeli said. “ If you want to go fast, drive on the freeway.”
Once the council approves the resolution, the state will conduct its own analysis. If the state approves the lower speed limits, new signs could be posted within two weeks, Hert said.
Other safety and traffic improvements are coming to Everett Mall Way in the next year. The city will spend $1.13 million to improve traffic signal timing, with a goal of better pedestrian access. The project includes flashing yellow arrow signals, traffic cameras and curb ramp improvements.