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Sept. 20, 2020

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Burnt Bridge Creek residents vote to paint traffic-calming mural

They hope to encourage motorists to slow down

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
4 Photos
Heather Sinnott, chairwoman of the Burnt Bridge Creek Neighborhood Association, stands with her 2-year-old son, Henry, as she points to the intersection near her home on Northeast Poplar Street where the neighborhood association is hoping to paint a mural to slow down traffic. The speed limit where Poplar Street turns into Northeast 47th Street is 25 mph, but Sinnott says many drivers far exceed this speed and that it is dangerous for the neighborhood.
Heather Sinnott, chairwoman of the Burnt Bridge Creek Neighborhood Association, stands with her 2-year-old son, Henry, as she points to the intersection near her home on Northeast Poplar Street where the neighborhood association is hoping to paint a mural to slow down traffic. The speed limit where Poplar Street turns into Northeast 47th Street is 25 mph, but Sinnott says many drivers far exceed this speed and that it is dangerous for the neighborhood. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Heather Sinnott was alarmed, understandably, when a vehicle plowed through her neighbor’s back fence a few years ago. Her house is next door, and she has young children who play in the backyard.

Unfortunately, it’s not the first time it’s happened.

Over the last few years, several vehicles have smashed into neighbors’ fences or power poles along the stretch of road that becomes Northeast Poplar Street, said Sinnott, chairwoman of the Burnt Bridge Creek Neighborhood Association.

Data provided to the city of Vancouver from the Washington State Department of Transportation shows that between 2012 and 2016 there were two reported collisions at the intersection of Poplar Street and Northeast 155th Avenue: A vehicle ran the stop sign at 155th Avenue and was struck, and an inattentive driver on Poplar Street hit a fence.

As a temporary solution, the neighborhood at its May meeting voted to paint a street mural to help calm traffic at the problem intersection.

“We want to paint the street mural to give people a reminder that this isn’t a throughway; it’s a neighborhood. Our children and pets walk down it every day,” said Sinnott, 30. “It’s a temporary solution to remind people this is a community and neighborhood.”

The winding road starts out as Northeast 49th Street at the west edge of the neighborhood and turns into 48th, 47th and Poplar streets as it heads east.

Crashes happen when motorists take the curves and corners too quickly, Sinnott said. The posted speed limit in the area is 25 mph, but she said drivers often zoom by at 40 to 50 mph — particularly on the straight stretches of road.

“Everyone comes around the corner and just sees fences,” she said. “People just need to slow down.”

Street murals have primarily been painted in neighborhoods on the west side of the city, such as in Arnada, Shumway and Rose Village. But there are some murals in the Vancouver Heights and Fircrest neighborhoods, both west of the Burnt Bridge Creek Neighborhood.

“It would be one of the first east-side projects, which is pretty cool,” Sinnott added.

Neighborhood leaders talked with residents in a few other neighborhoods with street murals, Sinnott said, to figure out paint options and how they carried out the project.

Sinnott said neighborhood leaders need to get permission to paint the mural from the four homeowners at the adjacent corners of the intersection.

Then, the next step is selecting a design. They’ve briefly discussed painting a bridge and creek to tie in with the neighborhood’s name. They’ve also tossed around the idea of asking students at Burnt Bridge Creek Elementary School to come up with a design, Sinnott said.

In the meantime, the neighborhood association needs to fill out all of the necessary paperwork with the city, secure permits, plan a block party, set up traffic control and enlist volunteers to help paint. Sinnott said she feels confident the city will approve the street mural.

The city of Vancouver has used street murals as a traffic calming measure since about 2006. The Arnada neighborhood was the first to implement the strategy at the intersection of East 22nd and D streets, according to Judi Bailey, neighborhoods coordinator for the city of Vancouver.

Bailey said the idea is patterned after city repair projects in Portland.

“The idea is something visual in the street … narrows the perception of the street and catches people’s attention, and it automatically slows people down to see what it is,” she said.

One Arnada resident, Russ Pascoe, says the street murals have limited long-term success for traffic calming.

He was on the committee that planned and painted the mural in his neighborhood, and he lives near the troublesome intersection. Pascoe said in an email that when the mural was first painted, it worked well for a couple of months.

“Cars slowed for people to look at it. Some even stopped to talk about it,” he said. “I see a little of that after we refresh the paint each August, but soon after, drivers seem to ignore it, and speeds are the same over it as anywhere on 22nd, too often too fast.”

But a benefit is that the mural “pulls in people who otherwise don’t participate” in the neighborhood association, Russ said, because each August, they hold a painting party to refresh the mural.

Sinnott said she recognizes that the mural is not a long-term solution.

Ideally, the neighborhood needs some type of traffic control at the problem areas, which also include Northeast Poplar Street and Northeast 151st Avenue, and Northeast 151st Avenue and Northeast Sorrel Drive. The neighborhood is going to revisit painting those intersections at a later date, she said.

The problem is that Poplar appears to be wider than it actually is, because of a large bike lane on the south side of the road. The bike lane is so wide that motorists sometimes use it as a turn lane. Sinnott wants to better establish the bike lane from traffic lanes.

The mural will help make the road look narrower, she said, which in turn should slow people down.

Another idea is to post neon-colored signs along the road, stating “25 (mph) is fine,” Sinnott said.

One neighbor suggested painting murals on the fences along Poplar to encourage a stronger feeling of community and discourage speeding. But that would take a lot of work with individual homeowners, Sinnott said.

The neighborhood association had hoped to paint the mural this summer, Sinnott said, but will have to wait until roadwork on Poplar is complete.

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