B.G. City Council to address N.W. 20th Avenue issues Tuesday

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Residents along a bustling Battle Ground thoroughfare, near two schools, say the street's speed limit gives justification to lead foots.

They'd like it lowered.

But at first blush, the city appears reluctant to decrease the 35 mph speed limit along Northwest 20th Avenue, saying the number of driving citations and accidents along it may not justify such a move. Using traffic engineering data as justification, the city's public works department will recommend maintaining the current speed limit and completing a follow-up traffic study at a later date.

A final decision will be up to the Battle Ground City Council, which will address the matter at its Tuesday evening meeting.

Residents have complained about speeding, not to mention oblivious

drivers on the road, stretching up to Northeast 239th Street. At the Aug. 19 council meeting, four neighbors along Northwest 20th Avenue made their case that the current speed limit is too high and should be dropped to 25 mph.

Most of the concern stems from "hot rodders" who zoom down the street and don't stop for pedestrians, said resident Raymond Cahilig, 77, who's lived on Northwest 20th Avenue at Ninth Street for nine years. With Daybreak Middle School and Primary School located down the street, the sidewalks often bustle with activity in the mornings and early afternoons.

"There are a lot of kids that walk and want to get across the street," Cahilig said. "A lot of people don't stop for these kids, or the moms with their babies that want to get across the street."

With school resuming this week, Cahilig said he simply wants drivers to be more aware of their surroundings. If that takes lowering the speed limit, he favors it.

Complaints about speed limits happen occasionally, City Manager John Williams said, particularly when residents see trucks rumbling up and down their neighborhood streets. There's currently construction taking place on Northwest 20th Avenue.

"It's not uncommon for people to talk about lowering speeds on various streets, or the possibility of speed bumps," Williams said.

There typically needs to be strong evidence that roads are unsafe with their posted speed limits before they're lowered, however.

But in the past five years, there's only been one pedestrian-related accident on Northwest 20th Avenue. That happened this year, when a car stopped at an intersection backed up to give pedestrians more room to cross the street. It hit the car behind it.

Under the state's administrative code, the city can modify speed limits and parking limitations after traffic and engineering investigations. That's what the public works department is recommending.

The Battle Ground School District will continue to provide crossing guards near the schools, Williams said. The city has also talked to district officials about ways to make crossings safer while, at the same time, not inhibiting traffic. Those discussions, Williams said, have centered on ensuring crossing guards don't create traffic bottlenecks.

As for Cahilig, he has advice for the speedsters on Northwest 20th Avenue: "If you have someplace to go, wake up earlier."

While he said he doesn't necessarily want to force people to change their behavior, he and other neighbors want youngsters to be safe.

"I'm just concerned about the kids," he said.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com