Monroe looking at street safety

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

MONROE — Ken Dobrow worries every day as he sends his 7-year-old daughter off to school.

It’s not school violence nor the possibility of war that’s on his mind. It’s the traffic on Fryelands Boulevard.

"The reckless and careless driving that is going on in this community is unbelievable," said Dobrow, a senior coordinator at AT&T Wireless. "Something needs to be done."

Dobrow is on a campaign to bring safety to his neighborhood. He lives in the Thomas Farms addition along 157th Street SE, which links to Fryelands Boulevard, a north-south arterial from U.S. 2 to 164th Street SE.

His experiences at seeing truck and car traffic driving too fast and carelessly on Fryelands Boulevard has brought him to the boiling point. Besides e-mailing the police chief and the city administrator, he’s stood on the corner where his daughter crosses Fryelands Boulevard to Lake Tye Park yelling at motorists to slow down.

"Sometimes the drivers, especially the younger ones, just smile and make a rude hand gesture back," Dobrow said.

But city officials are taking him seriously. They are looking at what can be done to make the four-lane road safer.

City Administrator Bill Verwolf said a committee of residents in the area has met for a year prior to Dobrow’s campaign. The committee made suggestions, including stoplights and limiting truck traffic.

"We’re in the process of implementing their suggestions now," he said.

The first will be a stoplight at Wales Street and Fryelands Boulevard. It is under review by the state Department of Transportation and is expected to be working by early in 2002.

"Because we are contracting with the state to maintain the light, the state has to approve the plans," Verwolf said. "But it’s on the fast track."

The light is expected to cost the city about $250,000. It is being placed at Wales Street to allow safe pedestrian crossing to Lake Tye Park and to allow residential traffic onto Fryelands Boulevard.

There are plans to add a second stoplight at 154th Street, about five blocks south of Wales, once the Monroe School District completes plans to build an elementary school on the west side of Fryelands Boulevard, Verwolf said.

And the city is considering a roundabout intersection at Fryelands Boulevard and 164th Street to slow traffic to 15 miles an hour through the intersection.

In addition, the city council recently approved only local truck traffic on Fryelands Boulevard, hoping to limit the number of trucks.

Verwolf said that because there are business and industrial parks along the north end of Fryelands, trucks that deliver or ship from those businesses are allowed to travel along the entire distance of the boulevard.

Trucks going to one business, East Side Masonry, including the double-truck Cadman Rock Inc., gravel rigs, need access to the route because they cannot make safe right turns off U.S. 2 onto Fryelands Boulevard.

Verwolf said the neighborhood committee agreed with that decision, and each truck on the boulevard must get a permit from the police department.

Police Chief Colleen Wilson said the boulevard is not being used as a truck bypass. Police data also shows speeds are not excessive. Posted speed is 35 mph.

"Whenever I get complaints, I look at the data," she said. "But I also go to the location to get a feel for how things appear.

"I understand that moms feel they are taking their lives in their hands trying to cross Fryelands to get to the park. The perception is there because it is a four-lane road, and there is truck traffic there.

"But the data doesn’t show that."

The boulevard doesn’t have a higher incident of speeders or accidents than any other arterial street in the city, Wilson said. She said Lewis Street actually has more truck traffic and speed problems. But because it is a two-lane street, it doesn’t have the appearance of having problems.

Also, truck traffic on Fryelands amounts to only 30 percent of the total traffic, and trucks are involved in only 11 percent of the accidents, she said.

Wilson said a citizen’s patrol along Fryelands uses police radar, recording license plate numbers of speeding drivers and sending letters to each, reminding them of the speed limit. The same kind of letter is sent to trucks that use Fryelands without a permit.

But after a recent truck-car accident, Dobrow isn’t feeling any better about the boulevard.

"My wife and daughter had gone through that intersection only moments earlier," he said.

He plans to lobby the city for more safety measures, including speed bumps.

"There are a number of places along Fryelands where kids wait for school buses," he said. "I don’t want the city to wait until after a child is killed to make the road safe."

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

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