No adult or child should be hit by a car while using Tacoma’s streets. As co-chairs of the city of Tacoma’s Transportation Commission, we have heard from many parents who have had a child hit by a car while simply trying to cross the street or ride their bike to school.
This is unacceptable to us as transportation leaders. The Tacoma City Council should do everything possible to make the often dangerous and deadly streets of Tacoma safer for everyone. Lives are at stake.
After nearly 100 years, Tacoma Public Utilities is replacing the power towers along North 21st Street with half as many utility poles, allowing for greater use of the right-of way. Over the last few months, the local community, the commission and now the City Council have been asked what should be done with this expanded right-of-way.
This road redesign will last for decades and is a prime opportunity for change.
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Tacoma has been building a transportation network around the automobile since it began ripping up the streetcar lines almost 80 years ago. We believe it’s time to emphasize all modes of transportation, with safety and usability for pedestrians as the top priority.
This is not just a belief we both have; it is called for in Tacoma’s Transportation Master Plan, which was vetted by the public and approved by the City Council in 2015.
When it comes to North 21st between Pearl and Proctor streets, we see real opportunity for a safe workable corridor for all people, not just cars. The City Council will decide soon on options for the placement of the TPU poles. At the same time, it will guide city staff on street design.
The city’s Public Works Department has done the studies, looked at the data and presented options to the council. Option 1 is far and away the best choice for the future of our community.
Option 1 would add left-turn lanes, build enhanced bike lanes in each direction, implement wider sidewalks, create safe crosswalks throughout the corridor, and beautify the street with trees and landscaping.
It does this in a way that would not cause more traffic, according to data-driven traffic studies. There would be one travel lane in each direction for cars, thus creating safer speeds and a corridor that matches the already working design on the east side of North 21st.
Option 1 gives the community the safe, clean and attractive street it deserves and needs.
We are not alone when we advocate for this type of street. The Bicycle Pedestrian Technical Advisory Group and the Transportation Commission have both unanimously recommended Option 1 to the City Council.
But the most important voice is the community itself. In multiple public meetings and other forms of comments, residents, neighbors and voters overwhelming supported this option. Many City Council members also see this project for what it is — an immense opportunity for increased safety and economic revitalization in Tacoma.
So one may ask: What is the problem? The stark reality is that few vocal City Council members are prioritizing unsafe speeding cars over the value of a human life. It should not take another close call or death to persuade the council to do the right thing. It has the opportunity, right now, to step up and lead.
We call on the community to ensure your voice is heard. Safe streets for all is not just what we deserve, it’s what we demand. The City Council should vote to move forward with Option 1 because it is the only responsible choice.
Dr. Jane Moore is a retired family physician and community organizer on mobility and health issues. Justin Leighton is a community advocate and executive director of the Washington State Transit Association. They have served four years as co-chairs of Tacoma’s Transportation Commission.