Backyard a target for speeding vehicles

Neighborhood-driven program has money to address a few select hazards

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 

For your neighborhood

The Neighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance meets at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month (excluding December and summer months) at Vancouver City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St. NTSA Chair Ross Montgomery said the May 20 meeting is the last chance for residents to bring up a traffic safety problem in this year's budget cycle.

For more information, contact Montgomery at montre2ecs@aol.com or 360-892-1968. The program is limited to those living in Vancouver city limits.

NTSA is a pilot program, and it's unknown whether it will continue in 2015. Learn more online.

The first time someone drove through Ryan Euverman's fence, it might have been a fluke.

The second time, the vehicle that flew through his backyard fence stopped when it hit a play structure his daughters use. The third time, a driver hit the fence in broad daylight. But the fourth time? That was probably the worst.

That's when a vehicle speeding down Southeast 168th Avenue in Vancouver's Bennington neighborhood failed to make the 90-degree turn near Euverman's backyard. It was about 11 p.m. on a Sunday last November. The vehicle took out the fence on the south side of his property, barreled through the length of his yard, took out the north-side fence and crashed into his neighbor's house, damaging a bathroom.

"It's gotten to the point where you have trouble sleeping," Euverman said. At night, "you hear (a car) and you hold your breath, thinking, 'Are they coming through?'"

Euverman and his wife, Jennifer Euverman, asked the city of Vancouver multiple times for help with the problem. Since then, city workers have striped the street's center line with raised yellow reflectors and installed arrow signs to alert drivers of the sharp turn. Euverman also attached several red reflectors to his fence.

The city is "taking little steps, but they're steps that aren't working," he said.

A new strategy

Now, the Euvermans have turned to a new city program, the Neighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance. It has a limited pot of money to spend on traffic-calming methods such as installing speed bumps. Last year, the alliance used a combined $80,000 on four projects to slow dangerous traffic, NTSA chairman Ross Montgomery said. For 2014, the group has about $120,000 to spend.

The alliance is asking Vancouver residents to contact them with any traffic safety problems caused by speeders. The group will visit the sites and review the problems to decide which projects to fund. The alliance may forward residents' concerns to the city.

"There are a lot of places in the city that have these problems," Montgomery said. "Unfortunately, there's just not enough money to address every situation at this time."

Besides speed bumps, common traffic-calming solutions include warning signs; concrete medians; traffic circles; raised crosswalks; pavement markers; and speed cushions, which force drivers to slow down but don't hinder emergency vehicles.

Ryan Euverman is asking the alliance for speed cushions on Southeast 169th Avenue.

'Peace of mind'

The Euvermans moved into their home in 2000. At that time, the area was less developed and there wasn't much traffic on the street by their house. Then more stores went up on Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard, and an apartment complex went in down the street.

The speed limit on that portion of Southeast 169th Avenue is 25 mph, but the road attracts motorists who are in a hurry.

"This has become the cut-through zone for people to avoid the lights" on Mill Plain, Ryan Euverman said. "It's become kind of a race strip down here."

Euverman said his daughters, ages 7 and 10, "can't even play outside after it gets dark. We have a fenced-in yard. It should be safe, in theory."

In a perfect world, Euverman said, he'd turn the sharp corner into a dead end, which would still leave residents with ways to access their homes. He said he also wants the city to put cement barriers in front of his fence, but the city told him that could become a liability. Drivers who injure themselves by crashing into the barriers could sue the city.

He said moving has crossed his mind recently, but he and his wife like where their children go to school. The family also lives near Burton Elementary School, where he teaches.

His neighbor Marilyn Crosson, whose bathroom was damaged last fall, said she's thought about moving, too.

"If it ever happens again, I've already told my husband, we're just going to sell and get away," she said. When the car crashed into her home, she was watching TV. She said it sounded like a bomb went off, and the crash was so powerful that the glass on her kitchen cabinets shattered.

"It did wake the whole neighborhood. Everybody was out there," Crosson said, adding that the driver then tried to flee. A neighbor stopped him.

The damage done to the Euvermans' fence and yard is estimated at nearly $10,000, while Crosson said it cost $8,600 to repair her home this fall.

"Property can be replaced, but your peace of mind in your own home? That's not something you get back easily," she said. "You just assume you're safe in your own home."

Traffic calming