The curb median keeps vehicles from the shoulder on the south side of 20th Street SE in Lake Stevens. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The curb median keeps vehicles from the shoulder on the south side of 20th Street SE in Lake Stevens. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Why does a curb keep cars away from bus stop in Lake Stevens?

Built in late 2020 and early 2021, the divider stops drivers from using the eastbound lane’s shoulder.

LAKE STEVENS — Commuters who put their gas pedal down to climb the hill of 20th Street SE in Lake Stevens know the Cavalero area is growing.

As they crest the incline and head east toward 79th Avenue SE, the shoulder gets painted lines to mark it’s only for emergency parking. Then a concrete curb median appears, blocking the shoulder for maybe less than 100 feet before it opens up again just before the intersection and a Community Transit bus stop.

It’s an odd and sudden change approaching the intersection where people can turn right into Cavalero Hill Community Park. Gary Savage of Lake Stevens noticed it and finally sought to learn the curb’s purpose.

“I’ve been puzzled by a road ‘divider’ at the southwest corner of 20th Street and 79th Avenue SE in Lake Stevens,” Savage wrote in an email to The Daily Herald. “… If the purpose of the existing arrangement is simply to prevent people from parking on the shoulder, it seems that the traffic department could have just painted white diagonal lines and posted a ‘No Parking’ sign(s) like they did for the stretch of 20th Street immediately to the west.”

He’s correct. The curb keeps vehicles eastbound on 20th Street SE from using that stretch of the shoulder.

That was the point when the city of Lake Stevens spent a $1.8 million state-funded grant on road improvements there between 2020 and 2021.

Most of that money went to adding the westbound HOV and transit lane on 20th Street SE.

The remainder paid for crews to build the eastbound curb median to protect Community Transit buses and passengers at the stop near 79th Avenue SE, Lake Stevens City Administrator Gene Brazel said.

“It keeps people from parking there and certainly provides protection for the bus when they’re picking people up,” Brazel said.

Community Transit spokesperson Monica Spain said there weren’t issues at that bus stop before the curb was installed. But the city was proactive in avoiding them as the area’s population grows.

Buses stop in the lane there instead of a pullout. It helps transit keep to its schedule by not needing to re-enter the lane. But some drivers could have tried to use the shoulder to get around backups and into the park, popular for its dog area and skate bowl.

But as Savage correctly notes, there isn’t any curb at the east end closer to 79th Avenue SE where someone could back in if they really felt like scofflawing.

That gap exists for a reason, too.

“The C-curbing layout was designed to keep vehicles behind the bus from trying to drive down the right side of the bus as riders board and de-board the bus,” Spain said in an email. “The large gap in the C-curbing where the bus actually stops was to correspond where the front and rear doors of the bus were located, ensuring rider safety.”

Savage also said the shoulder’s width could be used as a right-turn lane to 79th Avenue SE, which would keep people from parking there. The road, while popular as an access to the park, otherwise leads to a dead end. So it may not need a dedicated turn lane into it from eastbound 20th Street SE.

Some day the shoulder could be extended east as a new travel lane. But the city doesn’t have any active plans for that, and likely would wait until the trestle replacement and Highway 204 interchange are secured before pursuing further adjustments to that area of 20th Street SE, Brazel said.

“Right now that road’s finished with the construction. Now it’s maintaining,” Brazel said. “What you see is what’s going to be for a number of years.”

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