It was after a distracted driver crashed into 3 parked vehicles along Shannon Avenue that Ferndale resident, Linda Blunt, said she had finally had enough. “It is like living on a speedway sometimes,” Blunt said of her neighborhood during a phone interview. Wanting to do something about the problem but not knowing where to start, Blunt said she and a neighbor thought perhaps they could rally enough support from neighbors to get the City’s attention.
While getting support from neighbors, it was mostly in the form of advice to get speed bumps installed, request more police patrols and call the mayor. These did not seem like the things that would really create the long-lasting difference she was hoping for.
Blunt’s research uncovered some traffic safety programs in other Washington cities. “These are included in their city’s budgets each year,” Blunt said. “There’s money allocated to do something.”
For example, the City of Edmonds has a traffic calming program. It is, according to their website, “designed to assist residents and City staff in responding to neighborhood traffic issues related to speeding, cut-through traffic, and safety.” The 2018 budget for the program is $35,000 to “address speeding concerns and reduce cut-through traffic on any street.”
The Edmond’s program consists of a three-phase process:
- Petition and request review
- Increase education and/or enforcement if data from phase 1 indicates sufficient need
- Installation of traffic calming devices
Equipped with the Edmond’s program as an example, Blunt contacted the Ferndale Police Department and exchanged emails with Sergeant John VanderYacht. VanderYacht did some research and located traffic calming programs in several other cities around the state, including Bellingham. “They all seem to center around three basic ways to deal with speeding vehicles in residential areas: education, enforcement, and engineering,” VanderYacht said in an email.
During a telephone interview, VanderYacht noted, “Shannon Avenue is one area with frequent requests for extra patrols.”
City of Ferndale Community Development Director Jori Burnett said the best approach for Ferndale residents concerned about traffic in their neighborhood is to call 911. “This will establish a report for the City to track dates, times, trends, suspect descriptions (if they are available), and more,” Burnett said in an email. And the City takes these reports very seriously according to Burnett.
Burnett pointed out that the citizens are the ones usually with the best round-the-clock experience with neighborhood traffic situations. “Residents are our eyes and ears in terms of the way that traffic patterns work in our neighborhoods,” Burnett said.
When a problem area has been identified, solutions available according to Burnett include increased law enforcement, education, code enforcement (e.g. removing things that obstruct drivers’ views) and even capital projects to modify the infrastructure.
Such projects could include installation of traffic calming devices such as the speed tables recently included as part of the Washington Street improvement project between Main Street and Vista Drive.
Blunt says she has been alerting officials to the problem for a long time. “We seem to be stuck at the first step of measuring and identifying the problem,” Blunt said. Ferndale Police recently set up a speed awareness trailer in Blunt’s neighborhood that will collect data about traffic volumes and speeds. It also provides feedback to drivers about their speed.
VanderYacht said the speed awareness trailer is a relatively new piece of equipment in their traffic safety efforts and is useful for unbiased data collection over long periods of time.
Blunt said she feels the key to getting a city-wide traffic calming program in Ferndale is building citizen interest. “Others need to stand up and be willing to participate and help,” Blunt said. “It’s time to stop complaining and start doing, before someone gets killed.”
Blunt has created a Facebook group, SAFE STREETS – FERNDALE, WA, as a way for people in Ferndale to “raise their hand” and show interest in helping develop a traffic safety program in Ferndale. Realizing not everyone is on Facebook, she is also asking people to email her at LindaC6045@hotmail.com.