The intersection of Mission Avenue and Hamilton Street frustrates drivers to no end, especially those trying to turn left, but advocates for those with disabilities are calling for changes to protect pedestrians.
Recent repaving work has helped, but pedestrians just aren’t given enough time to cross the intersection in either direction, said Ed Kennedy, the independent living adviser at the Coalition of Responsible Disabled.
“It’s still a struggle with the time you have to get across the intersection,” Kennedy said. “I walk, but I don’t walk well, and I don’t walk fast. It’s scary.”
Kennedy’s clients report similar problems.
Several complexes that house seniors or people with disabilities are located nearby, including O’Malley Place, Maplewood Gardens and Hamilton House. Other local pedestrians include Gonzaga University students.
The intersection ranks sixth in the city for crashes, said Spokane Streets Department Operations Engineer Andy Schenk.
During the first six months of this year there were six crashes at the intersection, and from 2005-07 there were 54 collisions at Hamilton and Mission.
The only intersections with more collisions are Division Street and Sprague Avenue, Division Street and Wellesley Avenue, Second Avenue and Maple Street, Browne Street and Sprague Avenue and Mission Avenue and Greene Street, Schenk said.
City traffic planners are working on solutions at Mission and Hamilton, said Streets Department spokeswoman Ann Deasy.
But those solutions aren’t easy or cheap.
A key problem is turning left at the intersection since it does not have a left-turn light and traffic on both streets is heavy. Most drivers must turn left on the yellow light since there are few gaps in traffic during the green light.
Installing a left turn lane and light isn’t a simple proposition, however, said Deasy. “It’s not as easy as it sounds,” she said.
The traffic signals were installed in 1979.
Changing the configuration to install left turn lights would cost about $500,000 in right-of-way acquisition, cables and other equipment, she said, adding that the city is seeking grants for such work.
As for the signal timing, Deasy said the intersection was designed to meet national standards for pedestrian crossings, which call for people to be given one second to walk four feet.
Those guidelines were recently changed to one second for every 3 1/2 feet, so traffic engineers are examining that, she said.
One recent change at the intersection may make a difference for pedestrians and drivers.
A photo-red camera was installed at the intersection to catch drivers running red lights.
Still many drivers, frustrated trying to turn left, will continue to race through yellow lights posing a danger to pedestrians, Kennedy said.
“They’re looking for the traffic and waiting to get through whenever they see an opening,” he said.
Something needs to be done soon, Kennedy said. “It’s just an accident waiting to happen.”