LETTER: Lower speed limit means longer trip between Des Moines and Burien

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Waterland Blog nor its staff:]

Despite being “in the works” since 2010, the speed limit along a stretch of 1st Avenue S. between Burien and Des Moines has just recently been reduced from 45 to 35 miles an hour.

The change was initiated in Feb. 2010 when a resolution was adopted requesting that the City of Normandy Park work with the Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to approve the reduction of the speed limit on 1st Avenue South between 174th Street and approximately 211th Street. Five years later, with the wheels of government grinding slowly but exceedingly finely, the WSDOT in April 2015 affirmed that it would sign the authorization to reduce the speed limit from 45 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour provided that the city approve an ordinance to do the same, which the Normandy Park City Council did on April 14. Ordinance 915 reduces the speed through the entire length of 1st Avenue South in Normandy Park to 35 mph, making it match the speed limit entering the City of Burien as well as speed at the southerly entrance to Normandy Park and Des Moines.

Signs reflecting the reduced speed limit only recently began appearing, and subtly at that. Speed limit signs reading “35 miles an hour” have a “visibility orange” diamond attached to draw motorists’ attention, but nothing more than that. Signs that say, “Speed zone ahead: 35 mph” are still on 1st Avenue near S. 172nd, suggesting that the speed limit prior to those signs was somewhat higher.

Not anymore.

City officials say they have our collective safety in mind.

“It is worth noting that the engineering report about the speed reduction showed that the reduced speed adds one minute of travel time per the length of the corridor and, as a general traffic engineering proposition, rather significantly reduces the potential incidence of death to pedestrians,” Mark Hoppen, Normandy Park city manager said in an email. “WSDOT regional traffic engineers studied operating speeds, collision history, traffic volumes, and roadway and roadside characteristics, and subsequently recommended this revision.”

While the WSDOT has its engineers, figures and statistics, my observations lead me to disagree with them. As one who drives this road frequently, I firmly believe that motorists who poke along and delay other traffic cause more problems than those who meet (or slightly exceed) the previous 45 mph limit. In fact, I would argue for increasing the limit along portions of 1st Avenue that have two travel lanes and a two-way left turn median to 45 miles an hour to make for more efficient commuting to and through the city.

Finally, I would suggest with all due respect that motorists who don’t feel comfortable keeping up with a 45 mile an hour speed limit surrender their drivers’ license and have someone else take them where they need to go.

Carl Dombek
Des Moines

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7 Responses to “LETTER: Lower speed limit means longer trip between Des Moines and Burien”
  1. Abby Wammer says:

    When I drove thru the other day there were literally only two new speed limit signs one posted as you’re headed North out of Des Moines, right past the flag pole and the other is when you’re passing the QFC heading South in Normandy Park. I just hope the police are a little lenient with people, as the change is not well marked. Thanks for getting the info. out this way, many people will appreciate that info.

  2. Damon Chesterfield says:

    I totally agree with Mr. Dombek. I travel this road twice daily and just by chance looked up and the sign that has always said 45 now says 35. Although in my experience, depending on the time of day, you can’t even go 35 on most of the road.

  3. Don says:

    Had someone… anyone died? How can it lower something that has never happened.

  4. Beverly says:

    I live on KDM Rd and that road is a major highway any time of the day though it’s clearly posted as 35 mph. It’s insane how folks throttle it coming up from 16th Ave and fly down from 25th Ave. These are folks with NO respect for our city or the folks who need to enter and leave this road. And as a traveler on 1st Ave to the QFC in Normandy Park, if you aren’t doing 50 your are tailgated and honked at. I give up!!!

    • Communter says:

      Beverly, the speed limit from Des Moines north past the QFC has been 45 mph for years. It has only been 35 for the last week or so.

  5. RedondoRick says:

    All they had to do was reduce the speed to 25 mph like on Redondo Beach Drive. That way the average speed would be 45 mph…Rr

  6. BirchCreek says:

    Carl, I totally agree! I commute on 1st Ave going north through Normandy Park at about 1030 in the morning and nothing was more frustrating, when it was 45 mph, to have someone pull out onto 1st Ave and putter along at 30 mph – I guess just to be safe. And inevitably, it was a little old person, or a Metro bus. I now I will offend someone with this comment!
    So I guess now that the speed limit is 35 and I can now look forward to folks pulling in front of me and traveling 10-20 mph “just to be safe” Already on my commute today predictably I had a car pull out in front of me and go an amazingly speedy 30 mph! I bet that was the thrill of their day to be going so fast!

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