It was contentious city council meeting Monday night as numerous residents filled Snoqualmie City Council Chambers as the council prepared to vote on a resolution to award a contract to install a HAWK Signal/Crosswalk at the Fisher Ave and Snoqualmie Parkway intersection.
Residents urged council to delay the contract decision and spend more time studying the intersection, along with calling for a full stoplight to help pedestrians and drivers navigate the large intersection. Mayor Pro Tem Brian Holloway reminded council members they were there to vote on a contract, that the HAWK signal decision had been made two years earlier.
In November 2015, city council made the decision that a HAWK crosswalk (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacons designed to provide protected pedestrian crossings) would be installed at the intersection, at which point the city began design work and grant applications for the project. In 2016 the city was awarded a $175,000 Puget Sound Regional Council grant for the HAWK signal.
Why Not Full Stoplight?
Prior traffic studies showed traffic along Fisher Ave does not warrant a full stop light even though the city did receive $200,000 from Quadrant over a decade ago to help fund a future stoplight at the intersection. The city also applied for grants for a full stop light in 2012, but was denied.
City officials have stated previously that traffic will not warrant the full light until the Snoqualmie Hills West Urban Growth Area is developed and connected to Fisher Ave, at which point a developer would help most likely be required to pay for the light.
The original Snoqualmie Ridge development plans did call for a light on Fisher Ave and Snoqualmie Parkway when the Woody Creek neighborhood was previously zoned as a business park/retail area, but the 2001 negotiated Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative (SPI) – which stopped the controversial Snoqualmie Falls Crossing development – changed the zoning to residential, allowing Quadrant to build the Woody Creek neighborhood.
According to Mayor Larson, the 2001 SPI did not address the stoplight (i.e. require Quadrant to install the light) and when that was realized around 2004, Quadrant and the city began negotiations. Quadrant did not want to pay for the light any longer as the Woody Creek neighborhood did not bring the traffic required to trigger a stoplight. The negotiations produced the $200,000 in traffic mitigation funds for the city to use toward future light.
For many residents in the Ironwood and Woody Creek area, that rationale and explanation doesn’t cut it. They say the intersection is dangerous for drivers exiting the large neighborhoods and the city should put citizen safety first.
At Monday night’s council meeting, multiple residents implored the city to reconsider a full stop light instead of the Hawk Crosswalk. Resident and recent council candidate Monica Lowney, who has spearheaded the effort for a full stoplight since 2015, pushed hard on council, even telling three council members to recuse themselves from the vote as she believed the topic was a land use/quasi-judicial decision and considered them biased on the topic.
After clarification from City Attorney Bob Sterbank that it was not a quasi-judicial matter and that none of the council members held financial interests in the company considered for the contract, they were not required to recuse themselves from the vote.
New councilmember Peggy Shepard called into question safety issues regarding HAWK crosswalks, noting the unique location of the Fisher crosswalk (downhill slope, six lanes, busy nearby park) and challenging the appropriateness of the Hawk signal.
Snoqualmie Valley resident and 45-year traffic engineer Gary Norris addressed council on behalf of citizens and requested further traffic studies be conducted near the intersection and noted other potential concerns regarding HAWK signals.
New councilmember Matt Lasse questioned engineers, asking for reassurance that the infrastructure for the crosswalk signal could later be utilized for a future, full stoplight – and that the HAWK light would have ample timing to ensure residents could safely cross the Parkway.
Councilmember Jeans asked that an additional warning beacon/sign be placed on the downhill slope to Fisher Ave, warning drivers to decrease speed before the intersection.
Council members also asked for increased police speed patrols after traffic engineers reported the average speed of drivers at the intersection was 49MPH – almost 10 over the posted speed limit.
In the end, the council voted 6-1 (Shepard the only no vote) to award the $366,000 construction and installation contract bid to Titan Earthworks, LLC of Pacific, WA. The PSRC grant and traffic mitigation money are expected fund the HAWK signal.
Councilmember Lasse stated, “The Hawk is at least a first step toward getting to a full signal, which everyone really does want. We just can’t do it yet.”
You can watch the full, 2+ hour discussion on the HAWK light issue on YouTube.
According to the city, the timeline for start and completion of the project are yet to be determined.
City Press Release About the Future Fisher Ave HAWK Signal
Unlike a typical traffic signal, the lights on the HAWK signal remain dark until activated by a pedestrian wishing to cross the street. When a pedestrian activates the signal by a push-button, drivers will see first flashing yellow lights in both directions on the Parkway, indicating caution and that the lights are about to change. After a short period, the lights will change to a steady yellow light, and finally a steady red light, requiring all vehicles in both directions to stop.
For the pedestrian, the signal will operate the same way a pedestrian signal works at a typical traffic light, displaying an upraised hand (“Don’t walk”) signal during the time that vehicles have the right of way, a walking figure (“Walk”) when vehicles have been stopped, and a countdown sequence to let the pedestrian known how much crossing time remains.
After the pedestrian crossing time is complete, the signals facing drivers will switch to flashing red, meaning that drivers must stop, wait for the crosswalk to be clear, and then proceed. After the flashing red sequence, the HAWK signal will again go dark, until activated by another pedestrian.
The timeline for start and completion are yet to be determined.
For more information about this project, please visit the City of Snoqualmie website at bit.ly/FisherHAWK.