McCann Road drives worries

Committee, county seek answers to concerns about safety

By Edward Stratton, Columbian staff writer



Bob Ellingwood halts his dog walks at a large arborvitae on the corner of 43rd Avenue and McCann Road. He says he stops, looks and listens for hard-to-see McCann traffic speeding east from Ashley Heights and other subdivisions to 36th Avenue, trying not to get run over.

The vision-impeding hedge is only one of many problems along a country road that’s transformed over the last 20 years into a main suburban arterial for traffic heading to 36th Avenue.

On June 15 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Ellingwood’s volunteer traffic committee and other parties to the McCann Road Traffic Improvement Initiative will hold their next meeting. County representatives will present their recommendations on how to improve safety and traffic control along a country road that has transformed over the past 20 years into a suburban arterial.

Public meeting

• What: McCann Road Traffic Improvement Initiative meeting. The McCann traffic committee and county representatives will discuss potential improvements on McCann Road.

• Where: Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 3000 N.W. 119th St.

• When: 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 15.

The intersection at McCann Road and 36th Avenue suffers from overcrowding and excessive speeds. Kevin Frederick, who moved into a house on its northwest corner about a month ago, says a lot of the problem is people cutting corners and making their way onto 36th Avenue to check for traffic. The intersection is at the top of a hill, with limited visibility for people traveling southon the avenue from Salmon Creek.

“The challenge is there is really only one stem road,” says Steve Schulte, the transportation division manager for Clark County Public Works, which is involved in the initiative.

One proposed solution was a one-way couplet, with only westbound traffic on McCann and eastbound traffic on 131st Street, but Schulte says the impact on 131st Street and the time needed to change the street directions made the plan unfeasible. Traffic signals on either street have also been proposed.

Slalom on S-curve

“You’ve got guys that are coming down that road like it’s a speedway,” says McCann Road resident Sam Adams of the S-curve between 36th and 39th avenues, just west of the intersection.

Schulte says there isn’t much of a reported accident history, if any, but some residents are still worried about speed and safety in the curves.

“They need to narrow the road,” says Tara Johnson, who has lived on McCann since 2000 and is also on the traffic committee. “The reason we have speed issues on this road is because it’s so wide.”

The committee considered a concrete island in the median or bump-out curbs, although Schulte says those could be troublesome for cyclists riding in bike lanes.

The committee also considered an upgrade in capacity that would widen portions of McCann. That means re-designating the road from a circulator that carries 3,000 vehicle trips per day to a “collector” with a capacity for 12,000 trips per day.

But many residents don’t want the added traffic.

“The county needs to look more where they’re issuing permits,” says Linda Oates, who lives at the northwest corner of McCann and 39th Avenue. “They don’t put enough planning into it.”

The changes will be sorely needed by 2025, however, when McCann Road is projected to be serving up to 786 homes. It served 527 homes as of 2009, according to the county.

Development issues

The issues on McCann date back almost two decades to a legal challenge by the Felida Neighborhood Association against developer Roger Snoey and his Ashley Heights subdivision. The case went all the way to the Washington State Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the association in September 1996. It stopped pursuing the case after that, with legal bills to pay off and the development having already begun.

The association and various neighbors also successfully opposed the $2.9 million extension of 137th Street from 36th to 39th avenues as part of the 1995 Felida Sub-Area Circulation Plan. Now, more than 15 years later, the subdivision has outgrown the road and neighbors say they want a solution.

Bill Wright, the county’s transportation program manager, says the county isn’t in a position to take on a lot of financial initiatives, and the project could take six months or three years.

“It’s an open question right now,” he said.