Council approves contract for controversial HAWK signal at Fisher Ave & Snoqualmie Parkway

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.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Lesley Sheppard says

    A City does not need a warrant to build a traffic light! They light at Better Way did not meet warrants either, but the City decided to build it because it was the right thing to do. The City is using traffic data from 2015, taken the day after a National Holiday and BEFORE Fisher Creek Park was built, to justify not having to install the light at this intersection. The bottom line is the City does not want to spend the money on a full traffic light, the only solution to protect both pedestrians and drivers.

  2. Larry gregory says

    I wonder how many pedestrian deaths it will take before a light is installed.

    • There have been so many, so far.

      • The HAWK isn’t installed yet, so people crossing the Parkway are very observant of traffic. With a HAWK there will be a false sense of security that the traffic will see the HAWK lights, know what to do, AND be able to stop on the downhill approaching the intersection. Some of the gravel/logging trucks coming down the hill travel at well over the posted 40 MPH limit and it does make me wonder *if* they could stop if they had to.

  3. This is arguably good for pedestrians trying to cross Snoqualmie Parkway (I would rather have a full stoplight though). But, it does nothing for traffic exiting the two neighborhoods and trying to make left turns onto the Parkway. The HAWK lights won’t change for those cars. And turning left onto the Parkway is currently very difficult and often dangerous (not to mention can take a long time waiting for a gap in traffic). The HAWK is the wrong solution. Thanks City Council.

  4. Sharilyn Lux says

    The problem is the City received the funding for the Hawk Signal in 2016. So, why are we pretending it is a to do or not to do? Someone applied for the grant, and it was awarded, and never installed. That is the real problem. Voting on something we were paid for in grant money 2 years ago. Seriously? What are we as a community going to do? We are receiving funds for grants, and two years later, deciding if we should use the money?

    • Danna McCall says

      This article gives some more background.The grant was approved in 2016, but it didn’t fund until June 2017, with the projected needed to be completed by June 2018 I believe. http://sp2018tqmagru.wpengine.com/years-controversy-new-hawk-light-coming-intersection-snoqualmie-parkway-fisher-ave/

    • Sharilyn Lux says

      So the city (who actually?) wrote a grant for it, when the citizens didn’t want it (based on need, as the city stated)? And we collected money for it from Quadrant and never constructed it? And then solicited public grants, via US, the tax payer? Is Bob Sterbank paying for it? No. Are we, yes.
      Why were City Council members coached to approve it via Bob Sterbank this February?
      It is clear, if it isn’t completed on time, the city is in trouble.
      Their problem.
      We should worry about the children and families crossing the sidewalk, not the City officials, some of which don’t live in our town and will never use it.
      We don’t need to construct unsafe things, solicited by our officials, without our consent. To protect adults, who volunteered to be public servants. These aren’t children. They are adults, responsible for children. Elected to protect and serve US.
      I am speaking for the children who will cross the HAWK light signal.
      We should not protect city officials, who are not protecting us or our children.
      We already have the funds. Why? Who wrote the request for something we didn’t ask for. And Mayor Larson, the person who wrote the grant, and those involved are in hot water, if it isn’t up and running soon.
      We speak for the children, not Mayor Larson. How will Mayor Larson reply or the city on liability at that signal?
      Stop the construction, for the safety of our families and community. And those who need to pay the consequence, will have to do so.
      Sharilyn Lux

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