The Hoquiam City Council agreed Monday to draft letters demanding the State Department of Transportation re-install a traffic light on Emerson Avenue that the city believes is critical for the safety of Central Elementary School students.
An ordinance was also passed to prohibit parking or stopping on the west side of Spencer Street to improve the safety of Hoquiam Middle School students, and the Public Safety Committee is looking at restricting truck parking near Central Elementary School for similar reasons.
School traffic light
The light was removed by the state after the Department of Transportation did a signal project through the Aberdeen and Hoquiam corridor, and the traffic signal was deemed not necessary for safe crossing of Emerson Avenue.
Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff disagrees.
“We believe it is necessary because of the nature of the street and direct proximity of both a school and a park,” she said. “There have been car vs. pedestrian accidents there WITH a light. We shouldn’t wait for another incident.”
In an email sent to Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay July 3, 2018, Jeff Young with the State Department of Transportation Aberdeen Project Engineer Office told Shay about the light’s removal, “The only reason for the traffic signal system was to control traffic for pedestrian crossing. Additionally, the crossing is managed by school crossing guards during school hours per discussions with the principal.”
A flashing “rectangular beam system for a crosswalk signal that is activated when the crosswalk is being utilized” was designed and installed by the Department of Transportation, which allowed the existing signal system to be removed, according to Young’s email to Shay.
“Crossing safety was not compromised as a result of this design and the removal of the existing signal system will result in a significant reduction in signal system maintenance,” said Young in the email.
The crossing has been the subject of much discussion over the past year at council meetings. Social media posts showing some close calls with vehicles and students in the presence of crossing guards have been shared, as have public comments at Hoquiam School Board meetings.
Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a Public Safety Committee recommendation to have letters written by Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff, Police Chief Jeff Myers, Central Elementary School crossing guard staff and Hoquiam School Superintendent Mike Villarreal “demanding that the traffic light on Emerson Avenue near Central Elementary School be reinstalled.”
The council also unanimously approved the Public Safety Committee exploring parking restrictions related to large trucks near Central Elementary School on Simpson Avenue after Councilman Jim George brought up safety concerns for students crossing 5th Street.
George said large trucks consistently park along 5th between Simpson Avenue and J Street and make it difficult for crossing students and other pedestrians to get a clear look down 5th to cross the street.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance to prohibit parking or stopping on the west side of Spencer Street between Chenault Avenue and Emerson Avenue. Spencer Street runs north off West Emerson past the Hoquiam Middle School. Vehicles park alongside the road, blocking the students’ vision of the traffic on Spencer when trying to cross between the school building and the parking area and play fields to the west.