On a short stretch of a busy boulevard, Arlington city staff want to evoke a time when communities felt smaller and life moved slower.
Last week at 180th Street NE and Smokey Point Boulevard, the city’s public works department put in a “complete streets” demonstration of how roads can work well for people on foot, on wheels and in vehicles. The project will be in place for another three weeks.
The Smokey Point neighborhood recently has boomed with commercial and residential development, but the speed limits are still fast and roads are increasingly busy, while other means to move around have lagged.
“Our aim was to make a main street,” Arlington development services manager Nova Heaton said.
To that end, public works staff painted a crosswalk and a bike lane/sidewalk, placed traffic-calming blocks that make a center median and potted plants, and reduced lane width. The normal 35 mph speed limit was lowered to 25 mph.
Smokey Point Boulevard parallels I-5 as a north-south corridor. But over the years what is mostly a two-lane road has become a busy arterial as development and populations in and near Arlington and Marysville grew. Community Transit operates three routes through the “complete streets” demonstration area.
“Smokey Point has so much to offer,” Arlington permit technician Launa Peterson said. “We want to make sure it develops so it’s really a complete entity.”
In survey results, people reported that high traffic volume and speeding drivers make turning from the boulevard difficult and scary, Heaton said. It somewhat isolates J. Rudy York Memorial Park at 3209 180th St. NE, just down the road from the boulevard.
“Most people walking along here wouldn’t feel safe,” Heaton said.
During a site visit before the demonstration started, that area didn’t have curbed sidewalks — not even a continuous marked shoulder on 180th Street. It made moving over for passing vehicles a bit tricky.
One driver, having spotted Heaton’s bright yellow Arlington Public Works safety vest, stopped near the boulevard to speak with her about the project.
“I don’t think the crosswalks are going to stop speeders,” the driver said.
Of course not, Heaton later said. But the goal isn’t to end all speeding, it’s to curb the majority who average 41 mph there, by altering the roadway.
“You purposely pull in those lanes and try to make them narrower, try to slow them down,” Heaton said.
The marked crosswalk is part of an education emphasis for the city about state law RCW 46.61.235, which requires drivers to stop for pedestrians crossing at an intersection — whether or not it has a marked crosswalk, lighting or other safety features.
The city got a $15,000 grant from Smart Growth America in 2019 for the project. As part of the grant, Arlington, Airway Heights and Wenatchee staff shared ideas and projects while learning from the urban development nonprofit based in D.C.
Arlington had considered turning Smokey Point Boulevard into a five-lane roadway. But city staff quickly dismissed it because it didn’t create a sense of place or encourage pedestrian use, Heaton said.
Some Arlington areas are getting similar “complete streets” settings, such as 204th Street NE just west of 74th Avenue NE or along 40th Avenue NE just north of 172nd Street NE/Highway 531 near Cedar Pointe Senior Apartments.
The city is gathering responses about the 180th Street NE and Smokey Point Boulevard demonstration at www.arlingtonwa.gov/completestreets, you can or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-403-3448.
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