In recent Snoqualmie City Council meetings, the topic of a stoplight at the Fisher Ave/Snoqualmie Parkway intersection resurfaced, including citizen accusations that Parks and Public Works Director Dan Marcinko had misstated information on a 2014 Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) grant application that earlier this year landed the city a $175,000 grant to construct a HAWK light at the busy intersection.
For the past two years the light has been a contentious topic as residents of the Ironwood and Woody Creek neighborhoods reignited the call for the city to put in a stoplight they said was promised a decade earlier by Snoqualmie Ridge developer, Weyerhaeuser/Quadrant, and city officials.
In 2010, 219 residents had signed a petition calling for a stoplight at the intersection so they could safely cross Snoqualmie Parkway. That petition was eventually presented and entered into public record at a city council meeting in late October 2015.
At the conclusion of the November 27th city council meeting, City of Snoqualmie Attorney Bob Sterbank refuted the accusations, saying the claims of misstated information on the application were untrue.
Sterbank explained the grant was written in 2014 by a city planner with oversight by a Public Works project engineer, not Marcinko. He said the application was submitted with information relayed by the resident who had spearheaded the petition. Marcinko was though listed as the city contact person on the application, which Sterbank said is customary as he is the head of the Public Works Department.
At contention is a statement on the application that residents had signed a petition calling for pedestrian-activated signal at the intersection. Former City Council candidate Monica Lowney pointed out the petition was actually for a stoplight, not a crosswalk.
Sterbank said when the grant application was submitted in 2014 the planner did not have the petition, rather an email from the citizen saying she had a petition with over 200 signatures who wanted a crosswalk. He also said that the petition, although calling for a stoplight, stated it was needed to provide safe travel across the busy road for walkers.
Lowney contended as the Director of Public Works, Marcinko was responsible for knowing what was in the grant application and believes he misrepresented the intent of the petition. Lowney strongly believes a full stop light is needed for the safety of pedestrians and drivers accessing the two neighborhoods containing about 300 homes.
Grant Application slow to Fund
The city’s 2014 grant application wasn’t approved until May 2016. Mayor Larson said the application was submitted in 2014 for the 2015 grant cycle funding, but was put on the PSRC contingency list, where smaller grant requests could be funded later if bigger projects come in under budget or didn’t happen.
The grant funded in June 2017, with project completion required by June 2018. The city says the $175,000 grant will be combined with the earlier Quadrant traffic mitigation money to build the new pedestrian activated crossing signal.
Larson said because the intersection doesn’t meet the warrants legally required for a full stoplight, the city doesn’t qualify for grants for that project and the $200,000 from Quadrant is not enough to build it. The intersection does meet standards for grant funding for the HAWK light, though.
The city does foresee a stoplight at the intersection some day, stating that when the Urban Growth area of Sno Hills West is eventually developed, traffic on Fisher would increase enough to meet the warrants and most likely a future developer would foot the bill.
History of Fisher/Snoqualmie Parkway intersection 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.
Mayor Matt Larson said many things were negotiated in the SPI, with the ultimate goal being to stop a large housing development from going in too close to Snoqualmie Falls. He explained that along with switching Woody Creek to residential from commercial, the CPI also allowed Snoqualmie Ridge division II to be developed a decade earlier than planned and facilitated street construction of “Better Way,” along with the retail area and residential area across from the fire station.
But, during SPI drafting, the light on Fisher and the Parkway wasn’t addressed. When that was realized around 2004, the city and Quadrant began legal negotiations regarding the light. Quadrant did not want to pay for it any longer as the Woody Creek neighborhood did not bring the traffic required to trigger a stoplight.
The city wanted the light to be built by Quadrant and sent letters saying the light was needed now. Negotiations ensued that resulted in the city receiving traffic mitigation funds – around $200,000 – in lieu of the light, and to be used in the future when a stoplight was needed.
What is a HAWK light?
High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacons were designed to provide protected pedestrian crossings and are only activated when needed. According to Wikipedia, HAWK lights provide an alternative when “standard traffic signal ‘warrants’ prevent the installation of standard three-color traffic signals.”
Another HAWK light is planned for the busy intersection of Railroad Ave and River Street in downtown Snoqualmie.
Below is an example from the City of Spokane: