Sunday night just as I was about to go to bed, I heard a strange noise coming from outside. It wasn’t too loud so I didn’t think much of it, but then I got a notification that someone had just started a thread on my neighborhood’s Nextdoor page: “Boat horn/siren 11pm?” When I got onto Nextdoor, there were two other threads that were rapidly filling up with people complaining about the noise, which was apparently really loud in parts of the neighborhood. There was speculation that maybe it was coming from a train, or maybe a boat at the Port or the Navy base.
So of course, instead of going to bed I decided to hop in my car and go try to find the source of the noise and get it on video:
It turns out the noise was coming from a tugboat with a stuck horn, as first reported that night by My Everett News:
Annoying horn blasting @PortofEverett is from broken horn on a tug boat. Workers trying to fix.
The tugboat horn did not stop until around 3:30 AM, keeping many people awake for most of the night. In the follow-up story the next day on My Everett News, they included a photo of the offending boat, which you can actually see in my video starting at around 1:25:
Tugboat with stuck horn at Port of Everett (click to enlarge)
A lot of people must have been disappointed that they missed out on the sound of the horn, because my video turned out to be fairly popular. It was featured on a handful of local news sites, radio reports, and even the national Fox News site:
Still more dangerous driving persists right in front of my house. The city of Everett traffic engineering department refuses to make any modifications to the flawed designs at this intersection that are obviously conducive to such dangerous behavior.
Here are the latest examples:
[Update November 28 – Here’s another.]
Note that these are just the ones that we happened to see first-hand. This kind of dangerous driving happens daily, I just don’t happen to be looking and save the video.
Here’s my latest email to the city of Everett traffic engineering department:
From: Timothy Ellis Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2016 11:36 AM To: Michael Brick; Ryan Sass; Engineering / Public Services Subject: Re: FW: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
I would like to reiterate my request for four-way stops on Wetmore Ave. at 36th, 35th, and 34th streets. We continue to see people driving at unsafe speeds (35-40mph) north on Wetmore and other drivers running the stop signs on the cross streets. We’ve already seen one fatality and without adjustments I am certain we will see more.
Please consider adding four-way stops at 36th, 35th, and 34th where the steep hills lead down to Wetmore. By adding the four-way stops it would 1) discourage through traffic from using Wetmore Ave, moving them instead to the much better suited Colby Ave and 2) slow all traffic through those three intersections, dramatically reducing the risk of a fatality collision.
And here’s their non-response reply:
From: Michael Brick <email@example.com> Date: Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 9:11 AM Subject: RE: FW: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
To: Timothy Ellis
Cc: Ryan Sass <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Tim Miller <email@example.com>, Kevin Allen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After further review of this location Traffic Engineering still finds that the existing east-west stops at these intersections are appropriate. I have contacted Sgt Allen with the Everett Police Department and made him aware of your concerns. He agrees that this is an issue of compliance with the existing stop signs and that police enforcement is the appropriate next step. He will be contacting you shortly to discuss what option the Police have to address your concerns.
Michael Brick, P.E.
Associate Traffic Engineer
City of Everett Public Works
It’s only a matter of time before there’s another serious injury or fatality collision at one of these intersections. It’s a shame that the city refuses to take the appropriate measures to prevent it.
The main problem is that people (often on bicycles but also in cars) frequently ignore the stop signs on 35th and 36th and blow right across Wetmore Avenue, especially when heading east, since both of these streets have a steep hill leading down to the stop sign at Wetmore. This has led to many close calls already. Here are just two recent near-misses that I happened to catch on camera at 36th & Wetmore:
Here’s an excerpt from my April 5th email:
I have seen people coming down the steep hill eastbound on 35th blow through the stop across Wetmore, and when you’re coming southbound down Wetmore, you have zero visibility of oncoming vehicles from the west thanks to that row of hedges. I typically avoid driving that portion of the road at all since I am afraid I will run over someone on a bicycle or skateboard without any chance to even see them coming.
This is what it looks like as you approach 35th heading southbound down Wetmore. Note that this street view was taken in 2012. The hedges on the right are even bigger than that now.
Last Friday, April 22, the city traffic engineer responded to email. Unfortunately, the only action the city plans to take for these two intersections is to improve stop sign visibility and measure traffic to possibly recommend “emphasis patrols” by the Everett Police for speeding on Wetmore. Neither of these solutions really does anything to address the structural problems that make these two intersections so dangerous.
Sadly on Monday afternoon 35th and Wetmore was host to the exact kind of collision I warned the city about:
EVERETT — A bicyclist suffered critical injuries Monday after colliding with a school bus in north Everett. The man, 52, was knocked unconscious but was breathing, according to police.
The man was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. No students were injured.
The crash happened about 2:15 p.m. at the intersection of Wetmore Avenue and 35th Street. The southbound bus was carrying the Everett High School track team to Memorial Stadium, according to the school district.
Police believe the eastbound bicyclist ran the stop sign and collided with the school bus, which did not have a stop sign.
I initially requested that the city install “traffic calming circles” at these two intersections. These exist at quite a few other intersections in our neighborhood, and would serve to slow traffic in both directions. The traffic engineer rejected that suggestion, saying that “they restrict the ability of emergency responders (particularly fire department vehicles) while they have proven to provide little to no reduction in crashes or excessive speeding at locations where they have been installed.”
Therefore, my latest suggestion is that the intersections on Wetmore at 35th and 36th streets should be made into four-way stops. There is already a four-lane north-south road with a flatter grade and a higher speed limit that is designed for through traffic just one block to the west on Colby. If vehicles on Wetmore were made to stop at 35th and 36th streets, collisions like the one that happened yesterday would be far less likely.
Here is my email exchange with the city on this matter:
From: Timothy Ellis Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 1:33 PM To: Ryan Sass; Engineering / Public Services Subject: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
I have lived on the corner of 36th Street and Wetmore Avenue since 2011, and I am very concerned about the safety of this intersection. In the time we have lived here, we have seen many people driving much too fast down Wetmore (usually northbound down the hill), and also many people–usually on bicycles or skateboards, but sometimes in cars as well–blowing through the stop signs on 36th Street.
Frankly I am amazed that nobody has been killed yet, and I fear that it is inevitable if changes are not made.
We also witness people driving far faster than 25mph up Wetmore on a daily basis (usually northbound as that is the downhill direction), occasionally even fast enough to catch a little air off the slight bump in the road just north of the intersection. It is ridiculous.
I would like to request that the intersection be modified in some way. I’m obviously not a transportation engineer, but it seems like the traffic calming circles solution in place at the intersections of 35th and Lombard and 35th and Oakes would sufficiently slow traffic in both directions to avoid any tragic events.
Also, I’m not personally there to witness it as often, but 35th and Wetmore has the same problems. I have seen people coming down the steep hill eastbound on 35th blow through the stop across Wetmore, and when you’re coming southbound down Wetmore, you have zero visibility of oncoming vehicles from the west thanks to that row of hedges. I typically avoid driving that portion of the road at all since I am afraid I will run over someone on a bicycle or skateboard without any chance to even see them coming.
From: Michael Brick Sent: Friday, April 22, 2016 11:53 AM To: Timothy Ellis Subject: RE: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
Thank you for taking the time to make the City of Everett aware of your safety concerns. We have evaluated the line of sight for the intersections of Wetmore Ave with 35th Street and 36th Street, checked that the stop signs at these intersections are clearly visible, and checked crash records along Wetmore Ave.
Traffic Engineering has evaluated the line of sight at the intersections of Wetmore Ave with 35th Street and 36th Street and found them acceptable. For local street intersections such as these this line of sight check consists of measuring how far away vehicles approaching along Wetmore can be seen from the side-streets when stopped 10 feet back from the edge of the travel lanes. When stopped 10 feet from the travel lanes approaching vehicles should be visible from at least 155 feet away. The City of Everett does not check that drivers along the main road can clearly see drivers stopped on the side-streets, only that drivers stopping on the side-streets can clearly see approaching drivers on the main road. We assume that side-street drivers will respond appropriately and yield to any vehicles approaching along the main road. The large hedge on the northwest corner of 35th Street and Wetmore Ave does extend partially across the sidewalk and a letter is being sent to the property owner directing that the hedge be trimmed but this is to comply with a legal requirement that the sidewalk be kept clear and unobstructed, not to maintain sight lines at this intersection.
Stop signs on local streets should also be visible to approaching traffic from at least 155 feet away. The stop signs on the approaches to Wetmore Ave along 35th Street and 36th Street are clearly visible to approaching vehicles from at least 155 feet away. Because the eastbound approaches to Wetmore Ave along 35th Street and 36th Street are particularly steep the City has already installed “STOP AHEAD” signs mid-way between Colby Ave and Wetmore Ave to reinforce to drivers that there is a stop at the bottom of the hill. The City of Everett is in the process of replacing all of our “STOP” signs with new, highly reflective signs to improve their visibility so the signs at these intersections will soon be replaced with even more visible signs.
It appears that no crashes have been reported to the Everett Police at the intersection of 36th Street and Wetmore Ave in recent years. The intersection of 35th Street and Wetmore Ave does have an average of 1.5 reported crashes per year, but only about 1 crash every 2 years results in any injuries. While ideally there would be no vehicle crashes in Everett, the low incidence of injuries in this area is considered acceptable to the City. We will not be installing traffic calming circles at these locations because they restrict the ability of emergency responders (particularly fire department vehicles) while they have proven to provide little to no reduction in crashes or excessive speeding at locations where they have been installed.
It has been several years since the City of Everett collected speed data along Wetmore Ave near your home. We recently placed a traffic counter along Wetmore Ave in this area to collect vehicle speed and volume data. If this data shows excessive vehicle speeds at specific times of day we will forward that information to the Everett Police Department and request emphasis patrols to address the speeding at those times. As soon as we have reviewed the data currently being collected I will let you know our findings.
If you have any further traffic related questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.
Michael Brick, P.E.
Associate Traffic Engineer
City of Everett Public Works
From: Timothy Ellis Sent: Friday, April 22, 2016 4:33 PM To: Michael Brick Subject: RE: dangerous intersections on Wetmore Ave
Thanks for the thoughtful response. However, I do feel somewhat like my point was not quite understood. My main concern is not that the stop signs are not visible or that people are otherwise not aware of them. My concern is that especially on the steep hill eastbound on 36th, people just don’t care to stop. Adding a “stop ahead” sign and making the stop signs more reflective will likely do nothing to change that.
Also, the location that you’ve put the speed/volume strips up at 34th street are not likely (in my opinion based on my observations) to measure nearly as much speeding as we see down the stretch of Wetmore between 37th and 36th. Since that portion has the steepest hill, it seems that most of the speeders are going their fastest at the bottom as they pass through the intersection of 36th & Wetmore, and may have slowed somewhat by the time they get to 34th.
I understand the downsides of the traffic calming circles, but I also think that something more than just improving existing stop sign visibility and possible “emphasis patrols” would be prudent to prevent a serious incident from eventually occurring here. I also find it odd that the city would be willing to go on record saying that a dangerous intersection like this “is considered acceptable to the City.” That seems like the kind of statement that might be problemati should there ever be a serious injury (or worse) that results in a lawsuit.
Obviously I still think some sort of modification would be advisable, even if it were just to make the intersections at 35th and 36th into four-way stops. With a wider, flatter north-south route one block west on Colby, I don’t see the harm in intentionally slowing traffic on Wetmore.
It all started when Sara Sanders’ beloved cedar took a turn for the worse.
It dropped a big honking limb onto Wetmore Avenue.
“It came down just before that big windstorm (in late August),” Sanders said. “It was time for it to go. The city sent me a letter that said ‘You must.’ ”
Still, it was hard letting go.
“The tree meant a lot to me. One of the reasons I bought the house 17 years ago was because of the tree,” Sanders said. “I wanted to be able to commemorate it in some way because it was a wonderful tree.”
What was once a 120-foot cedar is now a bear bearing books.
Has Seattle traffic suddenly gotten a lot worse, or is it just my skewed perception? I take the Sound Transit 510 express bus from Everett to Seattle every day for work and in the past few weeks I’ve experienced some really excruciating commutes, particularly in the morning on the way into Seattle.
Seattle’s worsening traffic has been the subject of a number of recent articles in both the Seattle Times1 and the Everett Herald2 based on a recent Corridor Capacity Report published by the Washington State DOT. However, this report only covers data through 2013, and my impression has been that things have gotten considerably worse just in the last few weeks.
As it turns out, I just so happen to have been collecting detailed data about my commute for over three years. Since late 2011 I’ve been logging the time at fourteen points along my way to work in the morning and on the way home in the evening. Using this data set, I can visualize my commutes to see if the last few weeks have seen anything truly out of the ordinary.
The plot below has a blue dot indicating the time between boarding the bus in Everett (at 34th & Broadway or 38th & Broadway) every morning and disembarking on one of the first stops (Stewart Street) in downtown Seattle. Orange dots represent the time spent on the bus in the evenings going the reverse direction. The lines are a 30-day rolling average.
After peaking at 56 minutes in late 2012, then peaking at 54 minutes in late 2013, the 30-day average morning commute has risen to an hour and five minutes as of November 3rd.
In fact, six of the ten worst morning commutes I’ve experienced in the last three years have been in just the past three weeks.
Top Ten Worst 510 Express AM Rides
Probably due to the combination of the onset of rainy weather, less daylight, and other factors, the fourth quarter of each of the last three years has seen considerably worse morning traffic than the rest of the year, but this so far year it has been absolutely dreadful.
Interestingly, evening traffic in the opposite direction over this same period has not seen any significant increase compared to last year.
Hopefully the last few weeks have just been a series of terrible flukes, rather than the beginning of a trend of consistently nightmarish morning commutes.
At least I always get a seat on the bus, where I can sleep, read Reddit, or write blog posts like this.