Photo by Jerry Gay
In this photo looking eastward on 150th Street, a line of cars wait at 1st Avenue South while there are no cars using 150th. The street dead-ends a block east of 1st Avenue.

Burien traffic signals frustrate drivers

You’re leaving the house late for work in the morning and you’re hoping to make up the time during the commute.

But it seems like there’s a stoplight at every intersection, even before you get to the clogged freeway… and they are all red! Why can’t the @#&* City synchronize those lights!?

While waiting for the light to change, you remember that time you went out for a late-night ice cream run on a Sunday night. There you sat for the longest time at a red light as the ice cream melted on the seat and there was not a car in sight on the street with the green light.

That was part of the frustration of 32-year Burien resident Kathy Nygard who finally emailed Burien staff and council members telling them she had never been more disgusted with them.

“Why on earth does the City of Burien need 6, yes 6 stop lights from 152nd Street to the entrance of 148th and SR 509?

“…It takes me almost 15 minutes to drive from SW 152nd and 21st Ave SW to the entrance of SR 509 at 6 a.m. in the morning. There is something wrong about that—15 minutes at 6 a.m.—come on folks—wake up!, Nygard wrote.

Burien City Manager Mike Manager insists the city installs traffic lights only for safety reasons or after thoroughly studying future traffic patterns. Sometimes, businesses request new lights but any additions are widely discussed before approved, Martin noted.

“We don’t put in traffic lights for the fun of it,” Martin commented.

Nygard didn’t mention whether she takes 152nd through downtown and Olde Burien or uses 148th to get to SR 509. Both routes feature frequent lights.

To discourage drivers from using 152nd as a commuting route, city staffers turned 12th Avenue Southwest into a bypass route. There are no stop signs between 152nd and 148th on 12th.

However, Deputy Mayor Lucy Krakowiak is frustrated that the city has not yet upgraded the bypass through the 12th Avenue residential neighborhood with sidewalks or other pedestrian safety features.

“We haven’t got much traction on that,” Krakowiak noted.

Nygard also was upset about a new stoplight installed at 1st Avenue South and 150th St. That makes three along 1st Avenue between 148th and 152nd.

“A new light was recently installed on 1st Ave and 150th! For what? It dead-ends on the east side of 1st Ave for goodness sake!,” Nygard emailed.

Martin said that although 150th ends about a block east of 1st, the light was particularly important to businesses along 1st Avenue.

He said the light was definitely needed. Sometimes people just don’t like change, he added.

Krakowiak, who often clashes with Martin, agreed that the new signal is more than the “Burien Honda Memorial Traffic Light.”

She said the new signal increases safety when turning left from 150th onto 1st Avenue or turning left from 1st onto 150th. It makes 150th another viable alternative bypass to 152nd or 148th, she added.

What really upset Nygard is that the numerous signals appear not be synchronized.

“I implore you; I beg you, if you have to have so many lights, at least have the courtesy to sync them when there is no traffic,” Nygard emailed.

Krakowiak agrees and notes that in her personal experience, the lights are better balanced in other parts of the county.

“Burien should rise to the occasion,” Krakowiak commented.

She points to the intersection of Ambaum Boulevard Southwest and Southwest 152nd Street as well as 4th Avenue Southwest and Southwest 153rd Street as places drivers can be stuck waiting for the light to change while there are no other cars around.

Martin cites a glitch in not getting the new 150th light synchronized with the other 1st Avenue signals.

“That’s an absolutely good idea,” Martin added.

While city leaders are working on making Burien a place where more people can both live and work, Krakowiak notes many Burien residents still have to commute to jobs outside the city.

“If it takes 20 minutes to get out of Burien, people might try to find a way to make life less stressful by looking at different living locations,” Krakowiak declared. “We should entice people to Burien by making the commute easier.”

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