September 6, 2012

By Contributor

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Serious traffic problem

Why was city not directing traffic?

I am writing to express my extreme anger at the way the city of Newcastle failed to handle the traffic situation Aug. 16 at the corner of Newcastle Way and Coal Creek Parkway. Traffic was backed up from Interstate 405 all the way up Coal Creek Parkway to the intersection.

A drive that usually takes me 10-12 minutes took more than an hour between 5 and 6:30 p.m. Once arriving at the intersection, I was appalled to discover that the traffic light was out and there was no police presence directing traffic. Instead, drivers were (correctly) treating the intersection like a four-way stop.

Since the huge majority of the traffic at that time of day is travelling south on Coal Creek parkway, this was inefficient and frankly dangerous. As I approached the intersection, an elderly pedestrian was trying to cross Coal Creek Parkway to little avail, until one driver got out of his car and briefly directed traffic himself to ensure the person could cross safely.

Upon my arrival home, I was further appalled to hear from other members of my household that the traffic light had been out since at least 3:30 p.m. I understand from yet another member of my household who was stuck in traffic behind me that the light was not working until after 7 p.m.

When I crossed the intersection at 6:30, there was one employee at the traffic control box on the southeast corner of the intersection working to fix the problem. I am angry that the city failed to provide traffic policing at the intersection, particularly during rush hour at a major intersection of our city, particularly when the situation was easily apparent from the late afternoon. I eagerly await an official explanation from our city officials for their lack of action.

Kathleen Millen


City lacks resources,  works on solutions

I apologize for the long delay you experienced traveling along Coal Creek Parkway. As you can imagine, there were many people who shared the same frustrations you did on their way home.

A Puget Sound Energy transformer powering that light blew a fuse and then needed to be replaced after a second trip. PSE was alerted immediately and it took some time to diagnose the problem and get the proper parts in place. They were slowed down somewhat by the traffic and more so by many similar incidents throughout the region, including the fire taking place in Eastern Washington.

In terms of the police response you referenced, you may not be aware that in order to operate within a very streamlined budget, the city maintains only six active patrol officers. We basically operate much of the week with only one officer on duty.

We contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office (again, in order to reduce costs) and it often is not possible to quickly get backup help for something like traffic control. In addition, it is typical procedure to have a minimum of two officers handle an intersection like Coal Creek Parkway for safety reasons.

We only had one officer on duty during the incident and my understanding is that they were responding to other calls during at least part of this time.

Believe me, the staff and City Council were very disappointed with how severe this backup became and we worked today (Aug. 17) on developing better alternatives if something like this were to happen again.

Thank you for your understanding.

Robert Wyman

City manager


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