Tacoma is ramping up its work on pedestrian crossings beginning this week, with work in the Lincoln Business District and elsewhere kicking off dozens of improvements.
The city broke ground Monday on rebuilding the four corners of the intersection at South 39th Street and Yakima Avenue to help walkers cross more safely.
The busy corner in front of the recently reopened Hong Kong Supermarket can be difficult to cross in the thick of mealtime or weekend traffic. The new intersection will include handicap accessible ramps on the two south corners and a “bulbout” on the two north corners.
The bulbout extends the curb and sidewalk farther into the roadway, which gives pedestrians a better view of oncoming traffic and allows drivers to see them before they start to cross, said Mark D’Andrea, the city’s project manager for the pedestrian improvements.
“If you’re a mom or a dad with a stroller, it’s easier to cross,” D’Andrea said.
The Lincoln District project’s start came a day after city crews striped 45 crosswalks at 22 sites across Tacoma. Some were existing but faded crosswalks. Others were spots where ramps existed but crosswalks did not.
By sometime next year, the city will have spent at least $3.3 million on improvements to pedestrian crossings citywide. Some intersections will just receive new stripes. Others will include a flashing beacon or new curbs and ramps.
The work comes more than a year after the city removed several illicit crosswalks painted by anonymous Tacoma residents — called vigilantes by some — in the Stadium District.
City Councilman Robert Thoms convened a meeting last summer to talk with North End residents who vented about the lack of adequate crosswalks. At the time, Thoms said, the city had no process to identify where new crosswalk improvements should be made.
Earlier this year, citizens submitted more than 650 recommendations for crosswalks. Many suggestions were duplicates. Others, like blind intersections, were ineligible for a crosswalk because they would be too dangerous to encourage pedestrian crossing. The project list was narrowed to 313 locations.
D’Andrea said those sites have been ranked according to criteria, such as proximity to schools and parks, that citizens created at public meetings.
Of the 313 locations, 64 were selected for completion with an initial allocation of $2.5 million — $300,000 for each of five council districts and another $1 million for downtown Tacoma.
The city has since received another $847,000 from various city sources, including the Commission on Disabilities and from the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, with which it hopes to complete more projects.
The city hopes to use the list of 313 locations to guide selection for future projects, Public Works Director Kurtis Kingsolver said.
“They (citizens) identified a lot more than we could get to,” Kingsolver said. “… Our goal is to keep chipping away as best we can.”
Earlier this year, the city spent $1.5 million on the citywide safety project and $2.2 million on a bikeways improvement project, which included crosswalk and bike lane improvements all over Tacoma. Much of the money for the two projects came from federal grants.
Thoms said he expects this work to be the start of more street-level improvements around the city.
“There’s no way we’re going to do less infrastructure (improvements) than we have in the past. That’s a fact,” he said.
Kingsolver said the city manager’s proposed 2015-2016 budget includes $1.5 million for more crosswalk improvements. That amount could change by the time the City Council approves the budget in December.