By Carrie Wood
On any given afternoon, chances are you can find Daryl Grigsby riding his bike along the streets of downtown Kirkland.
Grigsby leads by example, as the city’s Public Works director who manages the city’s operations for transportation, among other services.
Looking at the future of transportation in Kirkland, he refers to the city’s transportation strategy as a three-legged stool: active transportation, building projects to deal with capacity and intelligent transportation. The city hopes the strategies will meet its vision of “more people, more places, more often.”
The city recently completed its Active Transportation Plan that outlines city plans to add more sidewalks, bike lanes, bike facilities and pedestrian connections.
The city’s approach is to look at what projects could keep traffic moving at a reasonable level, while promoting other modes of transportation, such as walking, cycling and transit, Grigsby said.
“A lot of people don’t know – and this is the under-riding premises of this plan – but one quarter of all trips we take out of our house are less than a mile,” he said, noting the plan aims to take that percentage of trips and convert them from a car to walking, cycling or transit. This would alleviate congestion, reduce gas emissions and facilitate a healthier lifestyle, he added.
The plan outlines several goals that the city expects to reach in the near future, including to develop a section of Cross-Kirkland Trail on the Eastside Rail Corridor by 2015.
The plan also aims to reduce crash rates involving pedestrians and cyclists by 10 percent between 2010-2015.
The overall goal is to increase the number of pedestrians and cyclists, because “ironically the more pedestrians and bicyclists there are, crash rates actually go down,” Grigsby said.
One way to get more people on the streets is through the city’s commitment to pedestrian safety, he noted.
Deputy Mayor Joan McBride says the city has been a leader in pedestrian safety for years. Kirkland currently has pedestrian flags at about 70 locations throughout the city – more than any city of a comparable size, she said. In addition, the city has 30 flashing in-pavement crosswalks.
“We try to be a city that pilots new pedestrian safety tools and we’re very proud of that,” McBride said. “I’m sure with this new plan we’ll continue to look for all those new tools to slow down traffic a little bit.”
Continuing this commitment to safety, the city will improve lighting at all uncontrolled crosswalks on higher volume streets, which could be funded in 2010 and future CIP programs.
The city also has focused on installing more sidewalks, with the recent completion of sidewalk and bike lanes on 116th Ave. N.E., from the Houghton Park & Ride to 60th St.
The city also received grants for sidewalk projects and recently installed sidewalk on 99th and 100th avenues in Juanita, and off 132nd Street in North Rose Hill.
By 2016, the city plans to complete sidewalk on one side of all principal and minor arterials, as well as sidewalk on one side of all school walk route segments by 2019.
In addition, the city will increase the number of children who use active transportation to travel to and from school by implementing programs at Kirkland Junior High, Lake Washington High School and Juanita High School by next year.
Also next year the city will begin work on installing sidewalks on school walk routes, using a half million dollar grant Kirkland received from the state’s Safe Routes to School Program.
The Active Transportation Plan also aims to make bicycling more convenient in Kirkland.
Through an on-line survey, residents told the city they wanted improved bicycle parking, better on-street bicycle facilities, more directional signs and a way for cyclists to activate traffic signals.
The city recently installed new pavement markings to help cyclists trigger traffic signals. The city also plans to re-stripe streets so that space is reallocated to bicycles and away from cars by 2011, and complete installation of 50 percent of directional signs by 2011 and 100 percent by Dec. 2013.
Though the city promotes active transportation, it still can’t ignore that many people do drive, Grigsby says.
Some projects the city recently completed to accommodate drivers and deal with capacity include an addition of two left turn lanes at the intersection of Northeast 124th Avenue and 124th Avenue Northeast in Totem Lake, as well as the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Third Street and Kirkland Ave. that has helped mitigate traffic.
The city has also begun work on 85th corridor improvements and within the next couple of years will install a signal at the intersection of 85th and 124th streets that will increase turning capacity for drivers, sidewalks on both sides of 85th and underground utilities.
The extensive project, currently in the design phase and largely funded by Sound Transit, will require property acquisition and negotiation, Grigsby said.
“The city’s long-term vision is to make 85th Street a true business district, where there’s pedestrian activity,” he noted.
In partnership with King County Metro and Sound Transit, the city has also just begun work on a new downtown Transit Center that will be completed by Oct. 15.
On a recent afternoon, Iris Cabrera watched live footage of an intersection on 124th Street from her computer screen at City Hall.
A transportation engineer for the city, Cabrera described how she is able to monitor seven intersections in the city on her computer. The intelligent technology allows her to see how a traffic signal is operating. King County remotely manages the 124th corridor and can temporarily modify the signal timing if needed.
Grigsby said the City Council hasn’t invested a lot of money in this type of technology yet, but it recently completed its ITS (Intelligent Transportation) Strategic Plan that outlines ways ITS can help the city improve its transportation system.
Its a way to use technology to get more out of the city’s road and signal system, instead of adding more lanes, Grigsby added.
Carrie Wood is editor of the Kirkland Reporter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the City of Kirkland’s Active Transportation Plan, visit www.ci.kirkland.wa.us/depart/Public_Works/Transportation_Streets/Active_Transportation_Plan.htm