Bellingham neighborhood: Alabama safety project a hazard to side streets

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 15, 2014 

Alabama Street traffic

The view down Alabama Street from the bridge at the top of the hill, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 in Bellingham.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - Residents of the Roosevelt neighborhood say planned changes to Alabama Street would make driving in their neighborhood inconvenient and more dangerous.

A 4-inch curb city planners want to install down the center of the street, to prevent left turns onto side streets, would increase speeds on Alabama and make the Roosevelt neighborhood less appealing - more of a thoroughfare than a residential community - neighbors say.

The center curb down Alabama, intended to reduce collisions on the busy commuter street, should benefit all drivers, not just Roosevelt neighbors, city officials said. A $1.46 million grant for safety projects would probably be lost if the curb were eliminated, they said.

Residents and city officials appeared to be talking past each other at a "community conversation" Wednesday, May 14, about how the project should proceed.

"This is 100 percent about safety," Public Works Director Ted Carlson told a crowd of about 50 residents Wednesday at Roosevelt Elementary School. "I want to do something on this corridor that makes it better."

Residents, meanwhile, said traffic would increase on side streets that in some cases don't have sidewalks, and where children play.

One side street, St. Paul, would be the main access to a new stretch of East North Street, which would connect the now dead-end streets Queen, Racine, Toledo and Undine. This North Street extension is the city's proposed solution to the center-curb problem cited by neighbors.

"I think it would make Alabama safer, but the neighborhood would take up the slack for it," said Amy Bruce, who lives on Queen Street.

Some neighbors, including Teri Hall of Queen Street, said the best solution is to expand Alabama to five lanes, including a center-turn lane, to make left turns safer. That idea, which would cost about $1 million, is an option, Carlson said, but it doesn't meet the city's goal of serving all types of transportation, including bicycles and pedestrians.

Hall said if the city is willing to spend an estimated $400,000 for the North Street extension, it should spend $1 million to give the neighbors what they want.

"If there's no room for bike lanes, oh well, put them on Texas," Hall said.

The City Council, which already heard from Roosevelt residents for more than an hour at a public hearing on April 7, can expect the neighborhood to show up again in numbers when the council next considers the Alabama project, on June 9.

Neighbors also might picket Alabama Street during the May 28 evening commute. Hall sent an email to her neighbors on Thursday, May 15, recruiting volunteers for the protest.

MORE INFORMATION

To see the City of Bellingham's website on the Alabama Street project, click here.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

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