EVERETT — Drivers are a step closer to seeing slower speed limits — with the goal of fewer pedestrian deaths — in south Everett.
On Wednesday the Everett City Council passed a resolution 6-0 to lower speeds on Evergreen and Everett Mall ways. Councilmember Paula Rhyne was absent because of exposure to COVID-19, but supported the resolution during public comment.
The changes will affect the roads that make up Highway 99 from Airport Road to Seventh Avenue SE.
Heading from Airport Road north to Everett Mall Way, the speed limit would drop from 50 to 40 mph.
North to Seventh Avenue SE, it would drop from 40 to 35 mph.
The change comes in the wake of several people who died after drivers hit them along Evergreen Way in recent months.
“This is a long time coming,” Councilmember Liz Vogeli said Wednesday. ”This will not solve that problem, but maybe it will help.”
Studies have found a correlation between impact speed and fatality rate when a driver hits a pedestrian. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate 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. The number of people who would die at 20 mph plunges to around 5%.
As drivers head north into Everett on Highway 99, the speed limit is 50 mph. Businesses and residences line the road, which has sidewalks on both sides in the area. Crosswalks at intersections with signals are spread out, sometimes around a half-mile apart.
Everett traffic engineer Corey Hert conducted an engineering study of the road and concluded the current speed limits are “greater than is reasonable and safe.”
“These speed limits are fairly old and it’s time to update them to modern standards,” Hert said.
The 85th percentile speed, an engineering measurement of the speed most people drive, was 48 mph in the area. The average speed was 42 mph, Hert said.
The city expects to see some speed reduction, but not a “huge drop,” Hert said.
Luis Burbano, a south Everett resident, in an email asked the council to further lower speed limits on Evergreen and Everett Mall ways to 30 mph.
“Setting the speed limits at 35 and 40 mph, with traffic traveling at 45 and 50 mph accomplishes nothing in terms of safety,” Burbano wrote. “These speed limits provide zero chances of survival for a pedestrian.”
There are different approaches to achieve lower speeds and safer roads: lowering speed limits, re-engineering the road and enforcement.
Some pedestrian changes are coming to Everett Mall Way. But other engineering changes, such as center medians or reduced lanes that can cause lower driver speeds, aren’t planned.
The city is pursuing further traffic enforcement across the city, too, through red light cameras at Seventh Avenue SE and Everett Mall Way, as well as 112th Street SW and Evergreen Way. Those have not be installed yet as the city seeks a vendor.
The Washington State Department of Transportation must approve the lower speed limits. If it does, new signs could be installed within two weeks.
Ben Watanabe: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.
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