City event will test improvements to dangerous intersection
One of the most challenging and risky intersections in the Wenatchee Valley can be found right next to the Chelan County Courthouse. Planners for the city of Wenatchee are going to test a solution in late September so that neighbors and motorists can evaluate how effective that might be in improving safety.
Coming to the intersection on King Street from Palouse Street, drivers are confronted with a stop sign 20 feet or so short of the actual intersection. Technically, drivers are supposed to check traffic coming on Buchanan, and then swing to the right to come to the intersection. Those unfamiliar with the intersection will proceed straight to the intersection, sometimes making a turn without stopping. I would argue the most challenging access to the intersection is heading down King Street past the Episcopal Church. Drivers have a tough time seeing traffic traveling west on Washington Street, sometimes at high speed. For safety’s sake, you are wise to inch out into the intersection just to hopefully prevent a collision and swivel your head to make sure you see cars, bicycles and pedestrians that may be crossing.
It’s an intersection with a lot of close calls, says Brooklyn Holton, the Housing and Community Planner for the city. She spent some time observing the intersection to see what the safety challenges might be. She saw pedestrian sprinting across the intersection, cars slamming on brakes, some vehicles flying through the intersection at high speed and some near collision. “This is insane,” Holton remembers thinking.
She’s been working with Chelan County to come up with some ideas for making improvements to the area. There are two potential changes that are being considered and community members will have a chance to see these changes in action on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 26-27. On Thursday, the city will extend King Street toward Washington and create a fifth access to the intersection. There will be stop signs on every access.
On Sept. 27, the city will add a new twist – closing off Washington Street from that intersection all the way to Orondo Avenue, effectively creating a pedestrian walkway between the courthouse and Juvenile Hall and related buildings. That would be quite a change for motorists who are used to driving on Washington and turning on to Orondo. Law enforcement access to the sally port would be maintained. So some drivers will have to adjust their patterns, which we all know isn’t always comfortable or welcome.
It will be interesting to see how the changes impact traffic on nearby streets and whether there are unintended consequences Holton said this event is being done to generate comments from individuals based on actual experience rather than thinking about these changes as a more academic exercise. There is nothing better than actual experience, in my view. This is the second pop up event put together by the city. A year ago, the city tested an idea of creating bicycle lanes on First Street, from Columbia to Mission streets. The city is seeking grant funding to make those changes, Holton said.
Nobody likes change, but as a frequent player in the game of Russian roulette at the corner of King, Buchanan and Washington streets, it’s my view that something needs to happen.
The Pop Up Planning Committee that Holton has convened has developed a survey. You can take the survey in English or Spanish and look at the diagram of the intersection to see what it will look like by visiting wenatcheewa.gov/PopUp