Traffic

Is that traffic light too long? Too short? Here’s how you can make a request to change it

A pedestrian crosses 6th Avenue in Tacoma using an unmarked crosswalk in June 2016. People can use the Tacoma 311 service to request that the city mark a crosswalk.
A pedestrian crosses 6th Avenue in Tacoma using an unmarked crosswalk in June 2016. People can use the Tacoma 311 service to request that the city mark a crosswalk. News Tribune file photo

Q: How can I get a marked crosswalk, traffic-signal modification or new left turn-arrow signal at an intersection in Tacoma?

A: When you live or drive in an area long enough, you become the expert on traffic conditions. Sometimes, while you’re sitting in a line of cars so long that a green light has come and gone several times and you’re still sitting there, you start scheming. Or swearing.

A few readers have asked slightly varying versions of this question, which often amounts to, “How can I get the city to realize how bad the traffic at (such and such) intersection is?”

There are ways.

One of the easiest is connecting with the Traffic Engineering section of Tacoma’s Public Works department through TacomaFIRST 311. You do that by dialing 311 within city limits or 253-591-5000 from outside the city.

Once connected, you can submit a traffic complaint or request that public works officials “can then investigate and potentially complete in the future as grants or other funding becomes available,” according to a spokeswoman.

Obviously, new traffic signals and related infrastructure cost money, and the city won’t be able to fund every request. Public Works officials also will have to do some research into your request, which takes time and city resources.

But sometimes smaller, operational changes, like re-timing a traffic signal, can be made that would not necessarily require new infrastructure or modifying the infrastructure that’s already there.

Residents also can submit requests online through the TacomaFIRST 311 site at www.cityoftacoma.org/TacomaFirst311 by clicking the “TacomaFIRST 311” button under Online Resources. From there, you can ask a question, make a police report, or make a request about all sorts of city issues. If you want to request a new marked crosswalk, you’d click “make a request.”

One reader asked how to get a crosswalk marked. If you search for crosswalks in the “find an answer” section, there’s some interesting information about how even if a crosswalk isn’t marked, it’s still a legal crosswalk, and legal crosswalks exist at the intersection of all public streets.

“While people assume it’s safer to cross at a marked crosswalk, studies show marked crosswalks by themselves are not safer than unmarked crosswalks, especially at crossings of busy multi-lane streets,” according to city resources.

And, predictably answering your next question: “Providing marked crosswalks at all locations would be expensive and costly to maintain.”

If you’re not satisfied with using Tacoma 311 to make a request, you can always try to plead your case to the City Council member who represents your district. Now is as good a time as any as the council will be reviewing and voting on midway adjustments to the city’s two-year budget before the year’s end.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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