Roosevelt Neighborhood Pleads for Left Turns

City pushes for Alabama Street improvements, residents speak out

City pushes for Alabama Street improvements, residents speak out

• Topics: Bellingham,

The Bellingham City Council chambers were packed with Roosevelt Neighborhood supporters voicing their objections to some of the proposed Alabama Street improvements. The city, thanks to a healthy potential grant for Alabama Street improvements, has planned a whole range of changes to our beloved main drag.

The central concern, as presented by the public works department, is safety. Alabama is the second most dangerous street in Bellingham (the first being the Guide-Meridian). The proposed changes would go from four lanes to three lanes with a turn lane between Iron and Dean St (after Cornwall but before you hit Trader Joe's) and then the same for Superior Street up to the base of Alabama Hill. For the center section, from Trader Joe's through to Woburn, they proposed a raised barrier that would prevent all left turns. This barrier is called a “c-curb” (see picture).

They also planned to install more elaborate crossings, called HAWK crossings (yes, HAWK is an acronym, no it does not matter what it stands for) and improve the existing intersections to handle the extra traffic.

Roosevelt neighborhood residents seemed rather positive about all the improvements except for one. That c-curb running down the central section of Alabama was a complete non-starter. Resident after resident took the microphone and pleaded against it. They talked about how much traffic it would force onto their quiet arterials (Orleans, St. Clair, etc).

They pointed to the added time and effort it would take if they were coming from the wrong direction to drive all the way down to one end of Alabama and then all the way back just to get to their driveway. David Dopps, the president of the neighborhood association pleaded that he liked all the rest of the improvements but could not support the c-curb. Another speaker suggested  the funding possibilities were “wagging the planning department” and are driving the changes rather than safety.

Several residents raised the issue that this sort of improvement bisects their neighborhood, dividing their community and giving the impression of a busy highway rather than a neighborhood road.

Roosevelt has been a bit of a red-headed stepchild of our network of neighborhoods. It has a large rental population so there are fewer long-term residents of the neighborhood and it has a lower average income than Sunnyland or Barkley. However, the neighborhood still showed up in force to push back against such a drastic change to their community, and it appears they made an impact.

The council made no decision that night and will consider these improvements during a work session on the 21st but I spoke with Gene Knutson and he said that the c-curb is “dead on arrival.”

About Riley Sweeney

Citizen Journalist • Member since Aug 10, 2009

Riley Sweeney, raised in the Pacific Northwest, moved to Bellingham during the Bush years, worked on a cross-section of political campaigns during the Obama years, and then fled to the [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Apr 09, 2014

High intensity Activated crossWalK (HAWK). 😊

More here:


Bill Black

Apr 11, 2014

  I was informed at the “open house” meeting at Roosevelt Elementary by two people in positions to know that the next phase will be to punch North Street through and make it an arterial to alleviate the traffic crunch which will inevitably occur after the traffic on Alabama Street is “calmed”. The North Street right of way parallels Alabama Street to the north.
  The neighborhood north of Alabama has made strides in recent years towards becoming very liveable and this North Street “improvement” could not be good and the non-disclosure of the North Street extension is troublesome to me.
  The first time I used one of our flashing crosswalks I was astounded to realize that the pedestrian using the crosswalk has no way of knowing whether the lights are in operation or not. It would seem to me that the pedestrian is entitled to that information.
  Simply reducing the speed limit from 35 to 30 on Alabama Street would be, I suppose, much too simple and cheap….and on and on we go spending more of that free money from D.C.


Tip Johnson

Apr 14, 2014

If you are ever unfortunate enough to encounter a screwed up traffic situation, please console yourself with the knowledge that it was thoughtfully designed by a certified traffic engineer, often with the help of a transportation planner.

The earlier closure of 32nd and Old Fairhaven Parkway (a principle N’hood corner egress) has now combined with the confusion/constriction on the stalled Padden Creek channel capacity improvement at 22nd and Old Fairhaven Parkway to propel Donovan Avenue from a local secondary collector to a state highway alternate route.

We are sure the planners and engineers have this all thought out and that the benefits have just not yet dawned on us.  You have to trust superior knowledge and foresight.  It is always this way.  We NIMBYs get stuck in our selfish needs and don’t always take the long view.

In Happy Valley, we started asking for neighborhood traffic planning in 1979.  I am sure they must be doing an awful lot of planning because they keep building and “improving” streets.  It’s just that they have never engaged us in the discussion.  We would probably screw up their plans.

Sometimes it seems unclear as to who is actually enjoying these costly improvements.  This just means we have taken the classic parochial view that people should live on streets that allow them to enjoy their property and are safe enough that they can encourage their children to go outdoors and play.

Planners are far more clever than that. Even after the advent of traffic circles, traffic managers want signals.  They come with cool sensors and timers and boxes full of gadgets and can be manipulated to manage demand.  It’s very cool.  But they have to be “warranted” to qualify for consideration. Traffic managers have strategies for this.

For instance, when they restrict left turns, it is for a larger purpose. No left turn only means if you want to go left, you have to go right.  Then you have to drive around the block or affect some complex turning movement, like a U-turn, to get back to where you can turn right to go the way you want to go.

That’s genius! Starting you off in the wrong direction increases traffic in both directions and on far more streets.  It increases turning movements at multiple intersections and positions traffic managers to gather statistics that will help qualify them for further street improvements.  You see, they have Method!

You just have to understand that they know what is best for the N’hoods.  Be content to see how things unfold in the fullness of time, beneath their infinite wisdom.

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